York, Kweli Ya-Saleem earned the professional certification she needed for her dream retirement — and sheâ€™s glad she got it as soon as she did.
“I was in management, but I was disillusioned with the corporate life,” says Ya-Saleem, 52. “I wanted to get in my 20 years with the company so Iâ€™d get a pension, but the company offered me a package I couldnâ€™t refuse, after 16 years.” She had been a _quality control manager at Verizon when she was offered a package that included a one-time severance payout as well as a _pension. “My plan was to stay five more years past the date I retired, but sometimes you see the handwriting on the wall and you know you need to take a leap of faith,” says Ya-Saleem. “I decided, wisely, I believe, to seize the moment and leave early with something, rather than wait to be â€˜involuntarily downsizedâ€™ and leave with nothing.” The single mother of one son and grandmother of four took the risk.
Fortunately, Ya-Saleem had been anticipating her post-retirement occupation. “It took me two years, going nights and weekends, to get my certificate in massage therapy at the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy in Albany,” she says. “I took classes in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and other _sciences. After graduating in 2004, I passed my state board exam and got my license as a massage therapist.”
Initially, Ya-Saleem worked in spas and salons. She also tried working with a partner but soon discovered that she wanted to strike out on her own. “When the chance came to buy an existing practice,” she says, “I took a loan secured by my home. Iâ€™ve retained many of the clients from that practice and Iâ€™m working my way to where I want to be, which is doing three to five massages every day, at
$65 an hour.”
As the proprietor of Alternative Health Services, Ya-Saleem says sheâ€™s doing what sheâ€™s passionate about: “Helping people to feel better and get better.” Ya-Saleem is not only passionate but also making a good start in her own business, according to her financial adviser, Tracy Brown of William Tell Financial Services in Latham. “Too often,” says Brown, “someone will retire and think, â€˜Everyone says I cook well, so Iâ€™m going to start a restaurant.â€™ They have no idea what it takes to run a business so they get discouraged and walk away, losing all the money theyâ€™ve invested.”
On the other hand, Ya-Saleem had a viable plan. She obtained her license, bought an existing business, retained clients, and is actively marketing to attract new ones. “Even so,” says Brown, “we have kept some money to form a safety net, in case things turn down. Many people neglect to do so when they start a business after retiring.” Even with a solid business plan and a growing client base, Ya-Saleem needs more cash for living expenses, according to Brown. Her solution: tap Ya-Saleemâ€™s IRA.
Distributions from an IRA are taxable and also subject to a 10% penalty