I'm really glad I found this forum. Unlike some here I have not been a long time lurker so I am not up to speed on what has been discussed. I'll just introduce myself briefly and then try to catch up on what has already been discussed before asking too many questions that may have already been covered.
I apologize if this is too long!
I am in my mid 40's and my wife is five years older. We have done fairly well, make about $200k a year, have no kids or similar obligations. Our mortgage is paid off but we bought a second home a few years ago in a tropical resort area and have a mortgage on it. We vacation there and rent it out as well. The rentals approximately cover the mortgage and other expenses. We plan to retire in 10 years after we have that mortgage essentially paid off.
Financially we are in good shape we think. We could probably retire now if we really wanted to but would have to make some changes. My wife works in a job with a government pension that also entitles her to buy health insurance at reasonable rates after retirement. She just became eligible for early retirement about 2 years ago and normal retirement is only 5 years out. She'lI make about $50k a year then if she retires. I have a 403b in my job and additional taxable and tax deferred savings as well. All together we have about a million $, 1/3 in taxable accounts and 2/3 in tax deferred plus the pension and houses worth about $400,000 net of mortgages. Our financial focus until retirement will be on paying down the second home mortgage and stashing about $30k a year into taxable accounts in addition to about $15k in my 403b.
So, we are fairly confident that we will have enough money to retire in 10 years and could probably do so now if "something" happened. (That already makes it more difficult than it used to be to put up with job-related BS!). We both have government jobs that are very secure, more than most government jobs!
We're really starting to think about what retirement will really mean and that is what I am really looking for advice on here. We certainly want to spend a lot more time at our second home, and we both love science and learning so we will undoubtedly spend quite a bit of time pursuing those kinds of things. But we have no idea what that would really mean. We are both PhD scientists now but our interests lie in areas different from what we currently work in. Basically we are interested in nature/biology and geology. You often see recommendations to pursue those kinds of things in retirement by volunteering as a docent or whatever at museums, parks, etc. But when I see how docents are treated at places we go now I am not encouraged. Often the docents are highly knowledgable and qualified retirees that are treated like slaves by staff - experts in botony might be put to work trimming trees for example. So I'm not sure if that kind of thing would be for us. There are of course travel options and that kind of thing. Based on my brief reading here it seems liket the question of what to actually do after the first few months is common.
As appealing as early retirement is, I want to make sure we really know what we are getting into before focusing too much on it. I remember a radio call in program I was listening to abou 10 years ago - a guy called in who had just sold a tech startup he had formed and suddenly found himself able to retire at 40. He had only around 4-5 million so he was not in the category of becomming an angel investor. But he was basically set for life. The host of the program asked him what he was going to do and the guy said "Well, you see, I bought a table saw..." After that the host bet the guy that he would be looking for a job again in 5 years, not because he needed the money but because he needed the intellectual diversion.
I really want to spend the next few years figuring out exactly what we will do in retirement and getting ready for it...or is that even reasonable? We are both very healthy, active, athletic, and curious but I have seen far too many friends or friends' parents retire and turn into couch potatoes that really are not that happy after their first 3-6 months of leisure.
So, any advice