Semfia Featured in American Express

Semfia Featured in American Express

As originally appeared on American Express

How to Start a Franchise in 5 Steps

Interested in how to start a franchise? These experts say do your research before buying into a well-known brand.

Geoff Williams

Journalist, freelance writer

If you’re wondering how to start a franchise, you’re hardly alone. It’s an extremely popular type of business.

As you probably know, a franchise is a business system that corporations sell to interested parties. Optimists call it a “business in a box.” It’s that idea that you’re buying a business that will run itself once you open the doors. It isn’t quite that easy, of course, but people buy franchises in order to purchase a brand that has a proven following and business model.

The franchisee pays (often a lot of) money upfront to buy the rights to purchase a franchise, and there are franchise fees to pay as well. Franchisees will usually pay a monthly royalty fee (often 4 to 12 percent of the revenue) and a marketing fee (varies but think 2 percent of monthly revenue).

Understand the Available Franchise Types

When you think of franchises, you probably think of restaurants because they’re everywhere. Yet there are so many different categories of franchises.

“There are over 4,000 franchise brands out there. That’s more choices than there are stocks on the NASDAQ or the NYSE,” says Kenny Rose, the founder and CEO of Semfia, a Chicago-based franchise consultancy that caters to people who want to invest in franchises.

For example:

  • fitness centers
  • automotive repair
  • commercial and residential cleaning services
  • dry cleaners
  • retail
  • home health-care providers
  • pet-care providers
  • education and tutorial services
  • tax preparation services

Corporations tend to start franchising when they want to expand the business and spread the financial risk that comes with expansion. People who buy a franchise pay good money to do that. Let’s run down some of the issues you should consider if you’ve been wondering how to start a franchise.

There’s a lot to it.

Step 1: Research your options.

John Stodghill owns two Closets by Design in Austin and San Antonio. Before he became a franchise owner, Stodghill worked for the customized closets company as a vice president. Still, he wasn’t immediately sure if he wanted to own a Closets by Design or try something completely different. He looked at quite a few franchises, mostly restaurants and fitness centers, but neither fit his background or work experience.

“I had a friend who had achieved a very high level of success owning franchise restaurants, and he advised me to find something where I can directly apply what I have learned over 25 years of working for others, versus something I’ve never done before,” Stodghill says.

Once he did that, Stodghill realized it did make sense to go with Closets by Design. It would still be a completely new experience but not completely foreign either.

If you’re wondering how to start a franchise, first determine what type of franchise you want to buy. There are numerous franchise websites where you can research what’s out there. There are also franchise brokers, franchise coaches and even franchise coaching services that are franchises themselves. There’s no shortage of ways to discover what’s out there in the world of franchising.

And a franchise really needs to be a good fit for you. You may feel like you have the experience to run a franchise, but ideally, you also want to be interested in what your business produces.

“You will be all-consumed for a while as you get your business up and going. You must enjoy it! So do something new, but at least picture yourself liking it before jumping in,” advises Brant Wilson, the president and COO of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based TBC Automotive Operations at TBC Corporation. (TBC Corporation owns the franchises Midas and Big O Tires.)

Step 2: File for incorporation.

This doesn’t necessarily need to be the second step, but many franchisors prefer to work with a corporation or LLC. 

There are other reasons too: You’re forming a company so it’s your business that’s buying the franchise. It may seem like semantics, but from a legal standpoint, you’re separating your personal assets from your business liabilities.

Step 3: Arrange financing.

“When it comes to funding it’s always important to get pre-qualified just like buying a home. Most people don’t get pre-qualified before they start researching because they’re still exploring the idea of franchising,” Rose says.

Still, before you get in too deep (and possibly disappointed by the types of loans you can get), it’s worth looking into financing.

“I usually recommend to first look at minimum liquidity requirements the franchise needs to make sure you qualify. This liquidity is 20-30 percent of the entire investment and the rest will come from an SBA loan,” Rose says. “Your liquidity can come from cash, lending against securities or most commonly to utilize the Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) so you can use pre-tax dollars from a 401(k) or non-Roth IRA, tax free and penalty free.”

In general, a prospective franchise owner should have at least $50,000 in liquid assets, a $150,000 total net worth, and a 680 credit score, he says. (Rose suggests talking to a lender that specializes in franchising when you’re 100 percent on board with opening a franchise.)

That said, there are some franchises that specialize in people who don’t have a lot of access to funds. You may find a franchise you can run from your home office, which would help cut down your startup costs.

Contact several franchisees and explain that you are considering opening a franchise. If the franchisees are even halfway chatty, you should quickly get a sense of whether this is a franchise that you want in on.

Still, there’s no doubt that many franchises are expensive. Stodghill needed to raise around $400,000 for the two franchises he ended up buying.

“I got the majority of the funds through an SBA loan. The remainder came from a few close friends who were willing to help and possibly get a return as well,” he says, adding: “They all got a nice return.”

Nancy Rhodes owns an Enviro-Master Services in Columbia, South Carolina and purchased an existing franchise from someone who wanted to sell.

“To finance, I used a mechanism called ROBS, rollovers as business startups,” Rhodes explains. “The IRS allows one to use dollars set aside in an IRA for retirement to buy stock in one’s own company without triggering a tax liability.” 

There are a lot of ways to find funds for your franchise, from commercial business loans to lines of credit. But it does help to have a healthy credit score and the type of background that gives a lender the confidence that you’re a good risk.

Step 4: Talk to the franchisors and franchisees.

When you’re looking into opening a franchise, you might encounter franchisors in a variety of ways: by reaching out directly, through their website, at a franchise convention… Many franchisors even have Discovery Days, where prospective franchisees attend the company’s headquarters to talk with corporate executives and learn about what it takes to buy the franchise.

At the Discovery Days for Midas and Big O Tires, prospective franchisees “meet executives from operations, marketing, real estate, IT, product management, training and other organizations that will support them each day as their franchisor,” Wilson says.

But you should also make room in your schedule to talk to individual franchisees, the people who were once like you—looking in from the outside and wondering how to start a franchise. Many franchisors will tell you that it’s a good idea to talk to the franchisees.

“Talk to them about their relationship with other franchisees—it’s great to have a culture where they get together regularly to share with each other,” Wilson says. “Talk to them about the franchisor. Let’s face it—no franchise system is perfect. But get all the info you can to make the best decision.”

While no franchise system is perfect, some are run very well and some aren’t. Contact several franchisees and explain that you are considering opening a franchise. If the franchisees are even halfway chatty, you should quickly get a sense of whether this is a franchise that you want in on or one you want to steer clear from.

Step 5: Hire professionals.

At some point, you will probably want to start seeking professional help beyond relying on the franchisors you’re talking to.

For instance, you might want to hire a franchise attorney—one who hasn’t been recommended by the franchisor and who will be working for you to make sure your interests are served as much as the franchisor. There is so much to pore through, such as the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), a legal document that every franchisor has to send to you before you actually invest your money into a franchise.

If you’re going to buy a franchise, you don’t want to wing this. Why? Because you want to make sure you really understand what you’re getting into, says Ron Humes.

Humes has kind of done it all—often at the same time. The vice president of Post Modern Marketing, a marketing agency in Lexington, Kentucky, Humes has also been a realtor and owner of his own realty company for two decades. Some years back, he bought a franchise and turned his realty company into a franchise realty firm. That didn’t go so well.

“Most franchises have requirements for compliance. These will include the type of space you lease or purchase, the way you decorate the space, the way you keep and report your books and the way you run your business,” Humes says.

He knew that going in, and “during the courting period with the franchise salesperson, we were promised simplicity and assistance.”

But after Humes became a franchise owner, he felt all of the rules his company had to follow were hurting his company’s productivity rather than helping it.

“Make certain you have a very good understanding of the burden that will be placed on you and your team,” says Humes. He eventually got out of the franchise contract and became an independent firm again.

“Also, be sure to get a clear understanding of your contractual obligations, rights and liberties,” he adds. “Once you sign the franchise agreement, you will be contractually and legally bound. These agreements can be hundreds of pages and are often written in [the] legal speak of franchise attorneys representing the interests of the franchisor.”

And while there’s nothing wrong with that, you may want your own attorney and other professionals, such as an accountant, representing your interests.

Rhodes hired an attorney who specializes in franchises, which helped her a lot. In fact, she says, the least stressful part for her was buying the franchise.

“What was stressful was the first year,” Rhodes says, listing a mix of personal ups and downs as well as the standard roller coaster ride of business ownership. But she did well, and the Enviro-Master Services corporation named her Rookie of the Year. 

Stodghill of Closets By Design has a pretty good rhythm going now, but he admits, “The first year and a half aged me 10 years. I wish I was joking.”

Franchises may not really be businesses in a box, but they’re the closest thing to them. As you begin the process of figuring out how to start a franchise, the more you prepare and educate yourself, the better off you’ll be. 

Read more articles growth opportunities.

Photo: Getty Images

The information contained herein is for generalized informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute investment, financial, tax, legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS ADVICE. Therefore, seek such advice in connection with any specific situation, as necessary. The views and opinions of third parties expressed herein represent the opinion of the author, speaker or participant (as the case may be) and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions and/or judgments of American Express Company or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions. American Express makes no representation as to, and is not responsible for, the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or reliability of any such opinion, advice or statement made herein.

Why it only costs $10k to ‘own’ a Chick-fil-A franchise

The chicken chain is known for having the lowest entry cost of any major fast-food franchise — but there’s a catch.


Originally appeared in TheHustle January 19, 2020

In America, the majority of fast-food restaurants aren’t owned by the corporation itself, but by franchisees —  individuals who pay for the right to use a brand name.

Instead of buying and developing new properties with their own money, most national chains (franchisors) will allow a party or individual (franchisee) to front the development bill and take a stab at ownership in exchange for a cut of the sales.

Many people dream of buying a fast-food franchise of their own, but few can afford it.

All told, it might cost a franchisee upwards of $2m to develop, build, and buy the right to open a McDonald’s or a KFC. Many chains won’t even look at your application unless you have a net worth of $1m and $500k in readily spendable cash sitting around.

But there’s an exception to this: A franchise at Chick-fil-A — one of America’s oldest, largest, and most profitable chains — can be yours for just $10k.

Before we get into how this is even remotely possible, let’s first take a step back and look at the economics of a traditional fast-food franchise deal.

How much does it cost to buy a fast-food franchise?

To better understand the capital required to acquire and launch a fast-food franchise, The Hustle spoke with more than a dozen franchise owners and analyzed data from franchise disclosure documents filed by 22 of the largest domestic chains.

For starters, it’s a feat just to qualify to buy a fast-food franchise from one of the big players — a franchisee has to be prettttttt-y pretttttt-y wealthy.

The average chain we looked at requires an applicant to have a minimum net worth of $1m ($500k of which is liquid). Burger chains and chicken chains appear to have the highest barrier to entry: To launch a Wendy’s, you need to have at least $5m in the bank, with $2m in liquid assets.

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

If you’re fortunate enough to get accepted, the first thing you’ll do is dish out a franchise fee — an upfront, one-time payment for the right to enter into business with the chain.

At an average of ~$30k, franchise fees make up only a small part of a franchisee’s total investment. The rights to big burger chains like Jack in the Box and Burger King will set you back $50k; sandwich chains like Subway can be had for $15k.

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

The bulk of the cost, though, lies in the development of the store: Real estate, building fees, equipment, inventory, and everything else necessary to get a new restaurant off the ground.

“The [chain] doesn’t want any liability with financing or developing,” says Reas Kondraschow, who owns 9 Five Guys in Broward County, Florida. “When it comes time to build, the franchisor is generally pretty hands-off.”

It’s the franchisee’s responsibility to cover all of these costs prior to opening.

This figure, called the total initial investment, varies widely based on the type of storefront (mall, drive-thru, dine-in) and the location. A McDonald’s in a small Southern town might cost 50% less than one in a major city.

For this reason, the estimated cost of a franchise is listed as a range in franchise disclosure reports. The chart below visualizes the lowest and highest range of what a given franchise might cost. (We ranked the results by the highest estimate.)

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

Overall, the average fast-food franchise costs between $777k and $1.9m to open. Though, according to the franchisees we spoke with, it’s realistic to expect to be on the higher end of this.

Shareef Aminmadani, whose family runs 64 Taco Bell franchises in Tennessee and Kentucky, tells The Hustle that his initial investment usually breaks down like so:

  • Franchise fee: $45k
  • Building: $900k
  • Equipment: $380k
  • Real estate: $250k to $1m

TOTAL: $1.6m to $2.3m

Like other franchisees we spoke with, Aminmadani pays ~25% of this amount ($400k-$575k) in cash, then uses loans and/or investors to cover the rest.

And what does a chain get out of letting someone else build and own a property under its brand name? Aside from the franchise fee mentioned above, it generally takes a royalty fee of anywhere from 4-8% of the store’s monthly sales. For his Taco Bells, Aminmadani pays 5.5%.

In addition to this royalty fee, a franchisee also pays another 2-6% for advertising (Zachary Crockett / The Hustle)

When properly leveraged, this model is a win-win for both parties: The chain can expand quickly and pass off the financial liability of owning and operating a store; the franchisee gets to own a business with a pre-established brand and a built-in customer base.

But at Chick-fil-A, things are done a bit differently.

Why Chick-fil-A franchises are so cheap

Take another look at the charts above, and you’ll see that Chick-fil-A stands out in a few ways:

  • It has no minimum net worth requirement.
  • It has the lowest franchise fee of any chain ($10k).
  • It has (by far) the lowest total investment cost for a franchisee ($10k).
  • It charges (by far) the highest royalty fee.

The reason for this? Unlike other franchise models, Chick-fil-A — not the franchisee — covers nearly the entire cost of opening each new restaurant (which, according to its financial disclosures, runs from $343k to $2m). The franchisee only pays the $10k franchise fee.

Chick-fil-A pays for (and retains ownership of) everything — real estate, equipment, inventory — and in return, it takes a MUCH bigger piece of the pie.

While a franchise like KFC takes 5% of sales, Chick-fil-A commands 15% of sales + 50% of any profit.

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

This model makes sense for Chick-fil-A for a few reasons.

At $4.2m per store, Chick-fil-A’s average revenue is the highest of any fast-food chain in America, dwarfing both direct competitors (KFC; $1.2m) and bigger brands (McDonald’s; $2.8m). That’s especially impressive considering that all Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sunday.

Based on these figures, Chick-fil-A’s 15% royalty alone (not including its 50% cut of profits) might work out to around $600k per store, per year.  (And remember: It still owns the property and equipment.)

This set-up can also work out to be a pretty sweet deal for Chick-fil-A’s franchisees. That is, if you can land the job.

A lower acceptance rate than Stanford 

According to Chick-fil-A, 60k people apply to be operators every year — and only ~80 are selected.

With a 0.13% acceptance rate, it’s harder to become a Chick-fil-A franchisee than it is to get into Stanford University (4.8%), get a job at Google (0.23%), or even become a special agent for the Secret Service (1%).

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

Chick-fil-A Operators go through a screening process that often lasts months.

Quincy L.A. Springs IV, a Chick-fil-A Operator in Atlanta, had to complete 10 rounds of interviews, write 12 essays, and provide a copy of his high-school transcript. Once selected, he went through an “extensive, multi-week training program” covering everything from menu education to employment law.

In lieu of wealthy investors, Chick-fil-A selects franchisees who are involved in their local communities. The company’s aim, says a spokesperson, is to find people who are willing to be “highly involved” in day-to-day operations. (While not a stated requirement, adhering to “Christian values” also doesn’t hurt an applicant’s chances).

“You run every aspect of the restaurant six days a week,” says Jeremiah Cillpam, a Chick-fil-A franchise owner in Los Angeles. In return for 60-hour work-weeks, an operator might take home 5-7% of revenue (around $150-$250k per year).

But from an investment perspective, certain things about being a Chick-fil-A franchisee aren’t so enticing:

  • They don’t own the restaurant or equipment (everything belongs to corporate).
  • They don’t have any equity stake in the business.
  • In most cases, they aren’t permitted to “own” multiple locations.
  • They aren’t permitted to run any other business.

In essence, Chick-fil-A operators aren’t truly business owners — or even franchisees in the traditional sense. 

“When people start a business, they want flexibility and real ownership,” says Kenny Rose, CEO of Semfia, a firm that educates people on franchise investing. “But as a Chick-fil-A franchisee, you’re basically just working a traditional management job.”

“A war for pennies”

Outside of FDD forms, financials on fast-food franchises are shrouded in mystery. Under FTC regulations, franchisors aren’t permitted to throw around earnings claims and franchisees are often hesitant to share their profit margins and ROI.

According to the annual reports of publically-traded fast-food chains, margins for franchised restaurants are usually razor-thin, ranging from less than 1% (Pizza Hut) up to 13% (KFC).

This can be especially true at enormous chains like McDonald’s, where overhead can eat into profits faster than the Hamburglar.

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

When you work in the chain’s 4% royaly ($108k), this operating income drops down to around $46k. That’s less than the salary of the average restaurant manager in the US, according to BLS data.

Those who own multiple franchises — or an empire of them — can make millions. But research published by Franchise Business Review found that 51% of food franchisees earn less than $50k per year and only around 7% take in $250k. 

“As a fast-food franchise owner, you’re often fighting a war for pennies,”  says Rose. “Food is the most competitive industry known to man: It has the highest investment level of any industry, the highest failure rate, and the lowest margins.”

At Chick-fil-A, some of these risks are mitigated by a low initial investment, booming sales, and good margins — but this comes at the expense of true ownership.

How much does a Chick-fil-a franchise cost?

Article originally appeared in Quora by Semfia Founder & CEO Kenny Rose


HOW IS IT ONLY $10,000?!

Chick-Fil-A is a rare breed in the franchise industry for several reasons.

In short, to become a franchisee, you might as well enter the lottery…and then give most of your winnings back….but you’re still winning the lottery!

Why it’s so Cheap

Typically a franchise cost will involve a franchise fee averaging $50,000 plus any build out costs if they have a physical location, marketing fees, and everything else needed to get the business going. For Chick-Fil-A, these total costs range from $315,000 to $1,750,000.

Chick-Fil-A however has done something very different. Instead of having a franchisee pay for all of these costs and then collecting a 3–15% royalty, they shoulder the costs on their own, for a franchise fee of $10,000.

They do this to make even more money on the backend and to get the most qualified operators.

Like most other food franchises franchises Chick-Fil-A cannot be owned as an investment business, you must own it and operate it full time. If the franchise does allow it, the franchisee would hire the best operator because those people wouldn’t have the funds to get this kind of business going. This franchise is made extremely affordable so someone who’s been in the food business for a very long time could become an owner/operator.

**Be careful only thinking about food franchises in general, my top answer on Quora cautions against it:Is owning a fast food franchise worth the time and money invested?

Due to this huge investment on their end, Chick-Fil-A allocates a percentage of their “Base Operating Service Fee” (BOSF) to royalties. The BOSF is 15% of gross sales AND 50% of all Net Profit. Instead of buying the blueprint with most franchises, you’re just being a tenant in their business.

For a very high performing restaurant like Chick-Fil-A currently is, this will still leave you plenty of money for a good income after very long hours. I typically advise away from the food industry when it comes to franchising for a wide variety of reasons. If you’re giving them half of your net profit, when the company hits hard times, you will get hit much harder.

As I recommend franchises for investors, I get asked about Chick-Fil-A very often. People see the lines around the block so it has to be a good investment, right?

First off, as with most franchises, if you see them in your city and they’re doing well, odds are you’re way too late to get involved. Active investors look at new concepts that are entering their geographic area and keeping an eye out for new concepts that are successful in other parts of the country that they can bring in.

So what if there is availability in your city? Now we have to see if you’re THE fit for what they seek in a franchisee.

Any good franchise is extremely selective when it comes to who they select to expand the brand. As much as potential investors are researching a franchise, the franchise is doing their due diligence on you. One bad franchisee can ruin the brand and tarnish their reputation. Franchises are not in the business of selling franchises, they’re in the business of collecting royalties, for a very long time.

Their success is directly tied into yours.

In summation, it costs very little to get involved, it’s extremely difficult to be selected (less than half of a percent) as a franchisee, and, if you do get it, expect long hours and big checks to corporate.

Do your research on other franchises and especially in other non-food industries before getting involved in anything. You don’t buy the first house you walk into because it looks nice.

Please upvote for applause if you made it this far and enjoyed it, feel free to reach out over LinkedIn to chat all things franchising, check out Semfia if you want specific franchise recommendations, and read some more franchise answers on Quora.

Next Avenue: Starting a Business After 50: How to Manage the Financial Risk

Questions to ask and five sources of funding

Credit: Adobe Stock

By Jessica Thiefels
Small Business Writer
October 30, 2019


Transitioning from your nine-to-five career to becoming a business owner after 50 may sound enticing, with the freedom to set your own hours and profit from your passions. But midlife entrepreneurship comes with financial risks, too. Here’s how to manage them and set yourself up for success:

Be Mindful of Your Financial Commitment

Since you’ll need to continue saving for retirement or live on your current fixed income in retirement, it’s crucial to establish a budget for how much you can, and will, invest in your business. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How much money am I able to invest without taking on debt?
  • How much revenue do I need to be profitable?
  • What other financial commitments and expenses do I have? (e.g. insurance, mortgage, utilities, travel)

You may need to dig into your financial statements and do some research to get these answers. But putting in the time to do so will help prevent you from endangering your financial future. And before starting a business, get your debt paid off, says Chane Steiner, CEO of the personal finance site Crediful.

5 Funding Ideas for a Midlife Business

Once you’ve determined your monetary limits, consider the five funding ideas recommends: Bootstrapping, personal loans, government or venture capital, crowdsourcing and retirement accounts.

Bootstrapping If you own the right equipment and have the knowledge to launch your business without help, use your own capital for initial costs. Just bear in mind that doing so will likely limit your financial ability to hire employees or invest in marketing.

You can use crowdfunding platforms to create an online fundraiser and then share the crowdfunding campaign link with family members and friends through email, social media and virtual marketplaces such as Craigslist to drive donations.

Rob Stephens

Says Rob Stephens, founder of CFO Perspective, a small business advisory site: “The question I would ask is ‘How much money can you lose and still live the retirement you want to live?’

Steiner suggests leaving “six months’ worth of expenses in savings, in case things tank.”

Personal loans If you need money to buy materials, hire staff or contractors, or pay for advertising, borrow funds with a personal business loan. It will most likely have a lower interest rate than if you charged the expenses on a credit card.

These days, the rate for a personal business loan is often 4% to 6%, according to the ValuePenguin personal finance site. By contrast, the average credit card rate is about 17%.

Government or venture capital The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two ways to get a loan: federal lending institutions and venture capitalists.

The SBA’s free Lender Match program connects small business owners with SBA-approved lenders. Or you can find a private investor through the SBA’s Small Business Investment Companies network.

Crowdfunding Websites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter and GoFundMe make it easy to generate awareness for a business idea and turn public interest into financial support.

You can use crowdfunding platforms to create an online fundraiser and then share the crowdfunding campaign link with family members and friends through email, social media and virtual marketplaces such as Craigslist to drive donations.

Retirement accounts While borrowing against funds in your 401(k) should be a last resort, it can provide more control of your money than working with a lending institution.

And you can transfer funds from a personal retirement account into a new 401(k) formed specifically for the business. This avoids extra debt and tax penalties, but it could also risk your savings. So, talk to a financial adviser if you are considering this route.

Kenny Rose, founder and CEO of Semfia, an investment advisory firm, says Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) can be one way to jump-start yourself. ROBS “allows you to do a partial rollover from a retirement account as your cash injection to get your business started — tax-free and penalty-free,” he says.

The ROBs strategy, Rose adds, can let you use pre-tax funds, avoid eating into your savings and invest in your next career.

Continue to full article as originally appeared on Next Avenue.

 (This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs, a Next Avenue initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.)

By Jessica ThiefelsJessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and Fast Company.  She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

OppLoans: Retirement Alternatives to a 401(k)

Article originally appeared on OppLoans.

Retire in something resembling style.

Throughout history, humanity has experimented with many different kinds of retirement plans. The earliest retirement plan was the “no-one-lived-past-their-30s” plan. While this had the advantage of not actually requiring any planning, it did not leave much time for relaxation.

Later, if legend is to be believed, putting the elderly out to sea on an ice floe gained some popularity. However, with arctic currently melting, this retirement plan is less viable than ever.

Since 1978 the 401(k) account has become a common solution for building retirement funds. 401(k) plans are investment accounts offered by employers as part of their benefits package. Employees can direct a small percentage of their pre-tax income into these accounts and their employer will match a portion of those funds.

But many jobs do not offer a 401(k). Perhaps your job does not. If that’s the case, how can you avoid being put out on the proverbial ice floe when you reach retirement age?

When you want something done right…

There are tax-advantaged retirement accounts you can open on your own that are separate from an employer-provided plan . You will not receive the benefits of that employer matching your contributions (unless you are remarkably persuasive), but it is likely better than nothing.

“Individual retirement accounts give anyone the option to save for retirement outside of an employer plan,” offers Sam, who writes about early retirement with her husband at How to FIRE. “You could open one at a brokerage firm like Fidelity or Vanguard. However, the IRS does have income requirements and contribution/distribution limits that you should be familiar with. Roth IRAs grow tax-free and traditional IRAs grow tax-deferred. If you are married and one of you does not work outside the home, you may even have the option for a spousal contribution.”

Property possibilities

If you want your retirement investments to be more tangible, you could consider putting money into property. Unfortunately, this will require you to have quite a bit of money already saved up. There are a few upsides if you can manage it, however.

“Rental properties complement stocks and more traditional retirement accounts extremely well,” says Brian Davis, co-founder of “To begin with, they generate ongoing passive income … Rental returns adjust for inflation automatically, as well. Not only do rents rise alongside inflation, they are a primary driver of inflation, and often rise faster than the broader inflation rate.”

While the money you put into the property will likely be subject to taxes, property ownership has its own sets of carve outs.

“They offer tax benefits, with every conceivable expense deducted from your profits,” Davis explains. “Even some paper expenses like depreciation are deductible. Taxpayers do not have to itemize their deductions to take advantage of these deductions, either – they come off your rental income before it is added to your adjusted gross income.”

Getting into the franchise game

Have you ever fancied yourself a business owner, but you just are not able to do it full time? Well you may be able to get into the franchise game as an investor.

“Most investors are unaware that you are able to invest in a full-time or semi-absentee franchise tax free and penalty free with the Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) program,” says Kenny Rose, founder and CEO of Semfia. “A semi-absentee franchise investment can be owned while working full time and can both build equity and produce a significant income. These are an out-of-the-ordinary investment that can also be paired with with a [U.S. Small Business Administration] loan to leverage pre-tax funds.”

Rose says the best way to approach this type of investment is to selectively pick your marketplace and do your research to vet different brands. “Although most people hear the word ‘franchise’ and go straight to food, the best way to reduce market risk is to look into recession-resistant industries like haircare, automotive, and fitness,” he says.

One caveat to be aware of is the time commitment. Even though it may not require your full time attention, investing in a franchise is not a completely hands off endeavour.

“Unlike other typical 401(k) investments, franchises are not passive money earners,” Rose warns. “Even for a semi-absentee investment you will need to manage a manager for 5 to 15 hours per week. Newer trends for semi-absentee are for nonworking spouses and recent college graduates to handle overseeing the management with the franchise structure.”

One other risk of note about small business loans: Know that your personal credit may impact your ability to get a small business loan, and a small business loan can impact your credit report, as well. Always make sure you understand the ins-and-outs of taking out any type of personal loan or business loan before moving forward with a money-borrowing decision.

If all else fails…

You may not have access to a 401(k) through your job. You may not meet the requirements for individual tax-free accounts. You may not have the money to invest in property or a franchise. But you can still do your best to put away money for retirement.

“Saving for retirement can be intimidating when you know that there are penalties for distributing the money before you are eligible,” Sam says. “If you would like more flexibility with your money, consider opening a taxable account. You can still earmark the money for retirement, but also use it without penalty before your golden years. Just be mindful that you won’t have the same tax advantages that retirement accounts offer. Any option to get you saving is better than not saving at all.”

It is not easy to think about retirement while you are dealing with so many daily expenses. But if you can make it a habit to regularly put aside retirement money, it should make a big difference later on.


G. Brian Davis is a landlord, personal finance writer, and co-founder of, which provides free video courses and rental investing tools for landlords. He spends most of the year overseas, splitting his time between Abu Dhabi, Europe, and his hometown of Baltimore.
Sam blogs about personal finance and financial independence at How To FIRE. She uses her Bachelors in Finance and MBA degree to help others get control of their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, and side hustles. For more information, visit her @HowToFIRE.
Kenny Rose is the founder & CEO of Semfia, a franchise brokerage to provide education and guidance on investing locally through semi-absentee franchise ownership. Rose founded Semfia after working in finance at Merrill Lynch and also spending time in the franchise industry. He realized that people want to hold a franchise business as an investment and not a full-time job, but they can’t get past that pesky F-word. A graduate of San Diego State University’s Top 10 Financial Services program, he has appeared on ABC, in the Amazon Best Seller “More Than Just French Fries,” and has been a featured speaker for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Centers of America, and SCORE. Follow him @InvestLocally.

Top Alternative Investments to Consider for Your IRA

Alternative investments are increasing in popularity with savvy investors who want to diversify a retirement account. Not only does one gain tax advantages, but they provide a diversified strategy cushioning a portfolio when traditional markets are volatile.

See the full article Gold IRA Guide.

The Richer Geek Podcast Episode #07 : The “F” Word of Business Ownership with Kenny Rose

Semfia Founder & CEO Kenny Rose guest stars on The Richer Geek Podcast with host Nichole Stohler. The Richer Geek helps technology and other high income professionals find creative ways to build wealth and financial freedom.

In this episode we weigh the pros and cons of semi-absentee franchise investing for professionals who’d rather keep a full-time job and invest on the side.

·       Franchise investment benefits versus investing in the stock market

·       Four types of franchise industries that are recession-resistant

·       How your 401K can help you finance your first franchise investment

·       The most common mistake new franchise owners make when they invest in a franchise

·       Why the food industry is the LAST place you should look for a franchise investment

Top Tips

·       Don’t overlook the value of your 401K and the Rollover for Business Startups program – it can help you find the financing to get started.

·       Look carefully at your long-term investment goals – understanding those goals will help you determine the type of franchise you’re best suited to own.

·Stay away from what’s “hot” – focus on what’s good for you.


Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS)://

Is investing in a franchise worth it?

If you’re only thinking about fast food franchises, my answer on that subject can be found here (20k+ views):

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Is owning a fast food franchise worth the time and money invested?

Long story short, stay away from food.

Let’s talk about investing in franchises in general.

Is investing in stocks worth it?

Is investing in real estate worth it?

These would be equivalent questions to ask based on the long track records they all have of success and failure.

If you find the right opportunity, you’ll find franchising is the best way to own a business as you get to be your own boss or have an investment company and not be in business by yourself.

It’s a way to skip the first 5–10+ years of business ownership and avoid all of the pitfalls you wouldn’t have known. Paying a franchise fee is a way to get six to seven figures worth of trial and error and business knowledge from day 1.

There are franchises in over 100 different industries from food to fitness to clothing recycling to custom tailored suits…you get the idea.

How do you know it’s worth it?

After years of advising individuals on which franchise is the right fit for them, the ‘worth it’ factor typically comes down to two areas.

  • Happiness
  • ROI


What are you looking for out of a business?

Would this be a way to diversify your 401(k) with an investment business where you manage a manager? Are you trying to do a full time change in career?

Do you want to manage a lot of employees or run a solo operation?

Is this a way to give back to the community by having a business that interacts with your city?

You really need to self-reflect on what you’d find fulfilling about a business, money aside, first or else you don’t know what you’re looking for to be worth it.

In franchising you’ll most likely be looking at industries you never considered before but will accomplish all of your other goals as long as you’re open minded.


This is usually the number one reason franchising is looked at as an investment option.

One of the first questions I’ll hear when introducing someone to a franchise concept is, “how much can I make?”

The Federal Trade Commission requires disclosure for all prospective franchise buyers and part of this disclosure is a section call Item 19 which is where they are allowed to make an earnings claim based on past performance.

This can be more detailed here:

Do franchises “guarantee” an ROI if their policies and procedures are followed?

Also remember that the amount of investment ≠ ROI, see more on that here:

What is the most profitable franchise in 2018?

The best way to find out is to actually research franchise brands that are a good fit from you. You’ll be able to hear from existing franchise owners and get to ask them if it’s worth it. If you speak to 5–10–20 owners and they all so no, then probably not. If they say yes, ask why and make sure you’d be happy in the same situation.h

Don’t forget to add CEO Kenny Rose on LinkedIn for future advice or if you have any specific questions and check out more of his answers on Quora.

To find out which franchises fit your long term goals, schedule 15 minutes with us in a few clicks.

24 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Franchise

Founder and CEO Kenny Rose was recently featured in

As originally appeared in FitSmallBusiness.

24 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Franchise

Semfia Featured on ABC 15

Semfia on ABC 15