Buying a Franchise After 55

Why more people 55 and up are buying franchises. Our expert helps you decide if it's the right move for you.

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By Jeff Elgin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It used to be that when someone turned 55, he or she was considered on the downhill slide into retirement. But today, 55 is the new 35. People in their 50s now realize they've got a lot left to offer and experience, and they're spending their time not thinking about retirement, but figuring out what they want to do with the second half of their adult life.

Many in this age bracket are empty nesters who have the time and energy to devote to a new calling. Many have also realized after years in the corporate world that they want more flexibility and the opportunity to be rewarded in a more direct manner for their work efforts.

Whether their goal is to create wealth, to give back and help others or to stay busy and creative, more and more people over 55 are thinking of pursuing the American Dream for themselves. We see many of them turning to franchise opportunities as an alternative to starting their own business from scratch.

There's a history of this dynamic in franchising. Ray Kroc was in his 50s when he started growing McDonald's, and Colonel Sanders was over 65 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken. Many franchisors actively seek new franchisees who are over 55, because they know the experience, wisdom and capital resources they've developed can serve them well as franchisees.

If you're wondering what franchises might be a good match for you as a mature franchisee, consider the following elements of franchise success:

Understanding the franchisee role. It's always important to know what you'll be doing on a day-to-day basis. In a franchise, this may have very little to do with delivering the product or service to the customer, since your focus may be on other functions of the business. Also, remember that after years of having a boss, you'll be in this role yourself, and you need to be comfortable with that responsibility.

Being comfortable doing all levels of tasks. After spending years in the corporate world, you may be used to delegating many tasks. You need to carefully consider whether you'll be OK serving as everything from the CEO to the janitor, depending on what your business needs at the moment.

Putting your personal assets at risk. Most people have accumulated substantial assets by the time they're in their mid-50s and may be significantly less willing to risk those assets. Carefully consider what sources you're willing to use in financing your business-especially retirement account assets-before setting out to find a franchise.

Changing your lifestyle. Many baby boomers reaching 55 have decided they want a more flexible lifestyle that allows for additional time off, travel opportunities or other priorities. When investigating potential franchise businesses, make sure to consider the franchisee role in relation to your lifestyle concerns.

Preparing exit plans. Though this is a significant consideration for all prospective franchisees, it can be particularly important for someone older than 55. Decide how much longer you want to work and what you're going to do with the business when you reach the point where you don't want to run it anymore. Whether you want to sell or turn a business over to your heirs, you should definitely begin this process with the end in mind.

You can experience tremendous joy and fulfillment during the process of "reinventing" yourself later in life. You get a wonderful second chance to build a life that has more meaning for you and that can be financially rewarding. All you need to do is take the time to really think through what you want out of business ownership and then investigate all opportunities carefully to make sure you select one that provides what's important to you.

Franchise companies will want you as a franchisee. You're going to be very popular when you start contacting them, because of your life experience, business acumen and financial stability. You can help both sides of this transaction by communicating to yourself and the franchise company where you want to go with the business and what you hope to accomplish. With a little care and thought, the best years in life can all be ahead of you.

Jeff Elgin

Jeff Elgin has almost 20 years of experience franchising, both as a franchisee and a senior franchise company executive. He's currently the CEO of FranChoice Inc., a company that provides free consulting to consumers looking for a franchise that best meets their needs.

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