The ROBS option allows you to use funds from your retirement savings to finance your franchise without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. This can be an attractive option for franchisees that struggle to get traditional loans and are comfortable with some amount of risk. Those with substantial retirement savings may feel most sanguine removing a portion of those funds for this purpose.
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Sometimes it makes sense to tap 401(k), Individual Retirement Account or other retirement funds rather than seek a loan. But rather than just taking an early withdrawal, which may be subject to taxation, you may want to consider setting up a C corporation that will own and operate the business. Then roll over money from your self-directed retirement account into that corporation’s profit-sharing plan and direct that those funds be invested into the franchised business. But this is a risky option: If the franchise fails, your retirement fund can be wiped out. Check with a professional on possible tax implications, and consider the tradeoffs carefully.
Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]