Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

Contests and

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 


most popular



Your Life Calling With Jane Pauley

Rediscovering a Passion for Music

Robert Rudolph left his career as a mortgage broker
to pursue his first love: choir music

Update: Robert Rudolph, who went from mortgage broker to choir director, gave us an update on his life calling.  His church received a Johannus digital pipe organ from Amsterdam.  It is largest of its kind in North America.  It will be fully built into the sanctuary of his church by midsummer.  The entire system is electronic: four keyboards, six divisions, 1400 watts of power, 72 channels, and 225 speakers.  This is one of Robert’s biggest successes in his new career.June 23, 2011


Robert Rudolph is a happy man.

It's evident in his laugh, his optimistic outlook on life, and just about everything he does. His secret: leaving his career, losing his 5,000-square-foot Atlanta home and never looking back.

Rudolph, now 53, was a mortgage broker in 2006 when the housing market began to crash. His income dropped from six figures to about $10,000 a year in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

"One day when yet another mortgage that had taken months to put together fell through, I walked into the office and said, 'I'm done,' " Rudolph recalls.

That moment changed his life.

He suddenly felt free to pursue his goal of becoming a church musician. It had been a lifelong dream: As a young man, he had put himself through seminary and got a master's degree in music. But his father, a businessman who retired in his 40s, had always stressed getting a job that would pay well enough to allow him to retire early. So Rudolph ditched his true passion and entered the world of business.

After 12 years as a manager at Macy's, he finally settled on a career as a mortgage broker. Money and success came fast as the housing market boomed. In 2004, Rudolph purchased a massive home and a Jaguar and was on track to retire at 55. But no one knew the turmoil brewing inside him.

"I was dying," Rudolph says. "What kept me motivated was the income and the idea of retiring early."

When the deals started falling through, Rudolph took it hard: He suffered two panic attacks and was rushed to the emergency room. He began isolating himself from friends because he couldn't afford to keep up his lavish lifestyle, and he felt like a disappointment.

At the end of each day, Rudolph recalls, "the only thing I had to look forward to was the heartache I was experiencing. I didn't want to do it again. I didn't know how to get around that."

At the same time, Rudolph's father developed Alzheimer's. Growing up, Rudolph says he was not as close to his father as he would have liked. He says the timing of his dad's illness proved to be a blessing in disguise.

"It just seemed like I didn't have to justify this anymore," Rudolph said of living up to his father's expectations. "Dads can have a heavy influence; as old as I am, it was still there."

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line offers 5% off on select cruises, plus other special offers.

Tanger Outlets

Members receive a free Tanger Coupon Book including up to 20% discount offers.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Members can convert their assets into guaranteed income for life with AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today


5 Weeks to a New Life

How do you resolve differences in a relationship — without fighting? Share your tips in our online community and be eligible to win prizes. Discuss

The Reinvention Group

The Reinvention Group

Ask questions, find support and share information about changing gears in your 50+ years. Discuss


The Coffee Shop

Kick back and enjoy lighthearted conversation among Online Community locals. Discuss