Have you ever thought about changing your job? How about moving from a comfortable corporate salary into a job that is commission based only? That’s exactly what Theresa did, read her interview to learn why she is fab in her fifties.

Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?

Hello!  My name is Theresa Muth and I’m in my mid-fifties living outside of Portland, Oregon.  I have recently changed careers and I’m so glad I did!  I am a realtor at John L Scott Real Estate.

Your last career involved working in an office with twenty direct reports.  How did you end up doing that and what did you want to do as a child?

I began my career in Early Childhood Education in 2000.  I love children and my youngest two daughters were preschool age, so it seemed a perfect for me to open a preschool.  Even as a child I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  I started my preschool in my basement with one teacher assisting me.  My business grew through the years and I found myself ten years later owning a thriving business at a facility with five other teachers and over 60 students.  Those years were my happiest by far!  The creativity, the growth, the never-ending enthusiasm of young children all combined to make those years very special.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to make money as a small business owner and after all the bills were paid it left very little left over.  Sadly, I found myself having to make the move to the corporate world.

I got a job as Director of a national chain childcare center.  I was responsible for over 80 children and 20 employees.  My job description was to market, mentor teachers and generally keep the center running smoothly.  My actual job was much different, however.  Because teachers would not show up for work, I often worked in the classrooms and I would not have time to do the administrative work I was supposed to.  I worked a salaried position and often found myself working open to close. Many times, I ended the day doing the dishes because our cook had to leave and after I was finished in the classroom there were piles of unwashed dishes.  This was NOT what I signed up for and I was pretty unhappy.  The salary was good and was much more than I was used to, so that kept me there.  Plus, I did enjoy the children and teachers.

Theresa and her Preschool Teachers

In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over.  First, why did you change your career and second, how did you decide to do this?

As my frustration escalated, I re-examined what I truly wanted to do as a career.  I always wanted to work in real estate, but the thought of a commission-only job was scary.  As much as I disliked my job, the bi-monthly paycheck was a perk.

I don’t know if there was a defining moment when I knew I wanted to make a career change, but for my Mother’s Day present to myself at age 53, I ordered the online real estate course and began studying.  I studied all summer and passed the exam in August, all the while continuing to work at my job.  I worked two more months going back and forth, questioning my decision to throw away this job that paid so well.  What if I was making a mistake?  What if I failed at selling real estate?  But ultimately in October I gave my notice and began my new career.

What were some of the things that you did to help transition yourself into this new career?

There’s no real transition into real estate.  You just jump in feet first.  I gave it my all:  working Open Houses every weekend, picking up extra “Floor” shifts where all the phone calls that came in went to me, marketed like crazy and did work for realtors when they were too busy.  I worked six months with no paycheck and truly thought I had made a terrible decision.  Lots of tears and stress during that time.  But after six months I began connecting with people and the listings and sales began to roll in and I haven’t looked back since.

Theresa making the sale

What do you love most about your new career and lifestyle and what do you miss about your old career?

The thing I like best about real estate is the freedom.  It’s a double-edged sword, however, because with freedom comes constantly being attached to my phone or computer.  I can attend functions but will have to take a call.  Vacations are difficult.  I love that I am helping people realize their dream of home ownership.  There are lots of stressful moments and I can work for a month and everything falls through and I don’t get a paycheck.

But overall, I absolutely love working in real estate!  My kids are out of the house so I can focus on my career for the first time without feeling guilty about the long hours.  I guess the thing I miss most about my other career is not being around children.  I miss the curiosity and I miss guiding them through those important years.  But I also feel like I was getting older and the physical part of the job was starting to become difficult.

Looking back to when you made the career transition, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently or anything that you felt wasn’t working out and you dropped or changed along the way?

Before entering my real estate career, I interviewed several agents and principal brokers and got their thoughts on the job.  Everyone encouraged me to take the chance and I’m glad I did. 

Did you get any advice or help from others while embarking on your new career?  What is the best advice or assistance that you got along the way?

The best advice I got was when I was in my first couple of months and not earning any money and questioning myself.  A realtor in my office told me to believe in myself and to just keep working hard and everything would work out.  And you know what?  I stuck through those scary six months.  I can’t say I didn’t lose faith in myself sometimes, but I did keep going and my career eventually took off.  I’m loving my lifestyle, loving the thrill of the job and the salary it provides.  I’m making twice the income as m

And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone looking to make a career change during midlife or later?

To anyone looking to make a career change in mid-life I would say you absolutely must do it!  You only live one life and if you are at a job you dislike for the majority of your waking hours, what quality of life is that?  You’re never too old to learn something new.  Studying for my license was difficult, I’m not going to lie.  It’s just harder to retain information, I think.  Things just don’t come as easily as we age.  But I think if you are passionate enough and really want something, then you can overcome most obstacles.

What advice do you have for someone who is afraid to try something new?

My advice to someone who is afraid to start something new is to define what is holding you back.  Is it fear?  Is it lack of confidence?  Is it that you are afraid of being criticized or ridiculed?  Do you think people will think it’s a silly idea?  Sit down and write out all the reasons you shouldn’t do it.  But if it’s something that will make you happy and will challenge you…well, doesn’t that trump everything?  I am a believer in living your best life.  Carpe Diem, as they say!  ‘Just Do It’ as Nike says!  It may not be easy, and you may have doubts, but never stop believing in yourself.  And surround yourself with a tribe who believes in you, too


I hope you enjoyed getting to know Theresa and finding out why she is fab in her fifties! It’s scary to do what she did, jumping from a Corporate salaried position to a commission based only career. But she did it and she is thriving. You can connect with Theresa in the following places.

Fab in Your Fifties blog

And you can find more interviews here with people who’ve Started Over.

fab in her 50's starting over interview