Why this couple quit their jobs at 40 to buy a flour mill

·Personal Finance Editor
·5-min read
Dean and Julie Olsen standing in front of Randell's Mill after quitting their Sydney jobs.
Dean and Julie Olsen quit their jobs in the city to start a new career in their 40s. (Source: Provided)

One day Julie and Dean Olsen found themselves tired. Tired of working in the same industries for more than 25 years and tired of the Sydney traffic - they needed a change.

Dean was running two real-estate offices and managing his many staff, while Julie was managing their childcare centre as well as working as a nurse unit manager in a busy intensive care unit.

The hustle and bustle of Sydney living had caught up with them.

“We had both been working at our careers for 25 years, our two children had left home and it was time for new adventures,” they said.

“The Hills [district] was a lovely place to bring up a family in the 1990s, but by 2013 it was just too crowded, with everyone so busy. We wanted more than this sort of life.”

It was a happy coincidence that right as they were feeling the burnout from two long and successful careers they stumbled upon Randells Mill.

“It was actually built by Julie’s ancestors in 1848 and is situated in the Adelaide Hills, in the town of Gumeracha, South Australia,” Dean said.

“That was our main reason for making such a drastic move. It was a beautiful, historic stone building and Julie is passionate about old stone properties and had been dreaming of them for ages.”

“Dean wanted the acreage,” Julie added.

“And we also wanted to live in a country community.”

So, the Olsens purchased the property and established Randell’s Mill Loft Apartments - three self-contained apartments with their own kitchen, bathroom and spa for two.

But the change wasn’t without its challenges.

“Probably our biggest hurdle was leaving our son who had just moved out but was still living in the Hills area,” they said.

“We knew we would miss him heaps, but he was embarking on his new life and we could support him from interstate.

They also had to sell two real-estate offices, a childcare centre, and their home in Castle Hill.

“These were all huge hurdles, as anyone who has decided to sell a business would know, much less three businesses in a few months,” they said.

“We also bought our mill in a town where we didn’t know a soul.”

But, despite the challenges, the Olsens said it had been a rewarding experience.

“We get to spend much more time together and we’re living in a beautiful part of the country,” Julie said.

“Dean now works full time in our business and we both work in our small town and local area.

“Soon we both will be full time here at Randell’s Mill and Cottage.”

Benefits of a midlife career change

Australia has a huge untapped workforce of older Australians, with one in three people aged 45-65 saying they are considering a career change in the next few years.

The Colonial First State (CFS) Unleash Your Second Half: How Australians are Reimagining Retirement report found that 58 per cent of people considering a career change would work longer in a new career than in their current line of work.

A further 46 per cent said they would work up to 10 years longer, and 11 per cent said they’d work more than 10 years longer.

The trend means many older Australians could also double their super savings by switching to a career they are more passionate about.

Older Australians staying in the workforce longer could also benefit the broader economy as businesses battle worker shortages.

CEO of CFS Superannuation Kelly Power said middle-aged Australians were reimagining their lives as a vibrant opportunity to pursue their passions and gain better work-life balance.

“Our research shows that people don't see retirement as an end goal, but instead want to continue to learn, grow and explore – and that includes changing careers and remaining in the workforce for longer,” Power said.

Julie and Dean Olsen.
The Olsen's found a career change revitalised their passion for work. (Source: Provided)

Financial benefits at retirement

Modelling by CFS found that by taking time off to retrain, then re-enter the workforce, people could almost double the super they would have by age 75.

CFS compared the earnings and savings trajectory of three 50-year-olds on an average salary and average same super savings of $150,000, who took different paths towards retirement.

The first person followed a ‘traditional retirement’ path, stopping work at age 65.

The others took two years off to retrain before re-entering the workforce in a revitalised career, one working full time and the other working part time (3 days per week) to age 75.

The person following the traditional retirement path would have $359,950 in their super fund when they retired at 65.

The career changer, who re-entered work in a full-time capacity on a slightly higher salary and worked longer, would have $451,322 if they retired at age 70.

Someone who re-entered the workforce on a lower part-time salary would also still retire with more savings than the person who took the traditional retirement path, with $338,940 at age 70.

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