Rollovers for Business Startups (ROBS) is a financing strategy that allows entrepreneurs to use their retirement funds to start or acquire an existing franchise business without incurring taxes or early withdrawal penalties. This method has gained popularity among aspiring business owners, particularly those interested in launching new franchise businesses. Here’s what adults need to know about leveraging their 401(k) funds through ROBS to open a franchise of their own:

What is ROBS?

ROBS is a financing arrangement that enables individuals to use their retirement savings, such as 401(k) or traditional IRA funds, to fund a new business venture without incurring taxes or penalties[1][2]. This method involves rolling over funds from an existing retirement account into a new 401(k) plan sponsored by a newly formed C corporation. The funds are then used to purchase stock in the corporation, providing capital for the new business[3].

How ROBS Works

The ROBS process typically involves the following five steps:

  1. Establish a new C corporation
  2. Create a 401(k) plan for the new corporation
  3. Roll over funds from an existing retirement account into the new 401(k) plan
  4. Use the rolled-over funds to purchase stock in the new corporation
  5. Utilize the proceeds from the stock sale to fund the business[3]

It’s important to note that ROBS is a complex transaction that requires careful planning and execution to comply with IRS regulations.

Advantages of ROBS for Franchise Businesses

ROBS offers several benefits for entrepreneurs looking to start a franchise business:

  1. Tax-free and penalty-free access to funds: Unlike traditional early withdrawals from retirement accounts, ROBS allows you to access your funds without incurring taxes or penalties[1].
  2. Debt-free startup: By using your own retirement funds, you can avoid taking on debt to start your business, which can improve cash flow and reduce financial stress[2].
  3. Quicker access to capital: ROBS can provide faster access to funds compared to traditional business loans, allowing you to launch your franchise more quickly[3].
  4. Potential for higher returns: If your business succeeds, the returns on your investment may exceed what you would have earned in your retirement account[2].

Risks and Considerations

While ROBS can be an attractive option, it’s essential to understand the risks involved:

  1. Retirement savings at risk: Using your retirement funds for a business venture puts your future financial security at risk if the business fails[1].
  2. Complex compliance requirements: ROBS transactions must adhere to strict IRS and Department of Labor regulations, requiring ongoing compliance and potential scrutiny[1].
  3. Potential for audit: The IRS closely monitors ROBS transactions, and non-compliance can result in taxes, penalties, and audits[3].
  4. Limited retirement diversification: Investing a significant portion of your retirement savings in a single business reduces diversification and increases risk[2].

ROBS and Franchise Businesses

ROBS can be particularly appealing for individuals interested in starting a franchise business for several reasons:

  1. Lower initial investment: Many franchises require a substantial upfront investment, which can be challenging to secure through traditional financing methods. ROBS provides access to funds that might otherwise be unavailable[4].
  2. Proven business model: Franchises often come with established business models and support systems, potentially reducing the risk associated with using retirement funds[4].
  3. Quicker start-up: The faster access to capital through ROBS can help meet franchise timelines and requirements more efficiently[3].

Steps to Use ROBS for a Franchise Business

If you’re considering using ROBS to fund a franchise business, follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate your retirement savings: Assess whether you have sufficient funds in your retirement account to support both your business venture and your future retirement needs.
  2. Research franchise opportunities: Investigate various franchise options that align with your interests, skills, and financial capabilities.
  3. Consult with professionals: Seek advice from financial advisors, tax professionals, and attorneys experienced in ROBS transactions and franchise law.
  4. Choose a ROBS provider: Select a reputable ROBS provider to guide you through the process and ensure compliance with regulations.
  5. Complete the ROBS transaction: Work with your chosen provider to execute the ROBS transaction, including forming the C corporation and rolling over your retirement funds.
  6. Acquire the franchise: Use the funds from the ROBS transaction to purchase and set up your franchise business.
  7. Maintain compliance: Adhere to ongoing compliance requirements, including filing necessary reports and managing the 401(k) plan properly.

IRS Guidelines and Compliance

The IRS has specific guidelines for ROBS transactions to ensure they are not used to evade taxes. Key compliance requirements include:

  1. Bona fide employer-employee relationship: The business owner must be a legitimate employee of the new corporation[1].
  2. Exclusive benefit rule: The 401(k) plan must be operated for the exclusive benefit of employees and their beneficiaries[1].
  3. Prohibited transactions: Avoid engaging in prohibited transactions, such as self-dealing or using plan assets for personal benefit[1].
  4. Ongoing plan administration: Properly manage the 401(k) plan, including offering it to eligible employees and filing required reports[3].

Alternatives to ROBS

Before committing to a ROBS transaction, consider alternative financing options for your franchise business:

  1. SBA loans: The Small Business Administration offers loan programs specifically designed for small businesses, including franchises[5].
  2. Traditional bank loans: Some banks offer franchise-specific financing options with competitive terms.
  3. Franchisor financing: Many franchisors provide financing assistance or partnerships with preferred lenders[4].
  4. Angel investors or venture capital: For high-growth potential franchises, outside investors may be interested in providing capital.
  5. Personal savings or assets: Using non-retirement personal savings or assets can be a less risky alternative to ROBS.

Choosing a ROBS Provider

If you decide to proceed with ROBS, selecting a reputable provider is crucial. Look for providers that:

  1. Have extensive experience with ROBS transactions
  2. Offer ongoing compliance support
  3. Provide clear explanations of the process and associated risks
  4. Have positive reviews and testimonials from past clients
  5. Are transparent about their fees and services

Long-term Considerations

When using ROBS to fund a franchise business, keep these long-term considerations in mind:

  1. Exit strategy: Plan for how you’ll eventually exit the business and potentially replenish your retirement savings.
  2. Diversification: Consider strategies to diversify your retirement savings over time to reduce risk.
  3. Succession planning: Develop a plan for the business’s future, including potential sale or transfer to family members.
  4. Ongoing compliance: Stay informed about any changes in regulations that may affect your ROBS arrangement.


ROBS can be a viable option for entrepreneurs looking to leverage their 401(k) funds to launch a franchise business. However, it’s essential to carefully weigh the potential benefits against the risks and complexities involved. Consult with financial professionals, thoroughly research your chosen franchise, and ensure ongoing compliance to maximize your chances of success.

For more information on ROBS and franchise financing, consider these authoritative sources:

Remember, while ROBS can provide a path to business ownership, it’s crucial to approach this financing method with caution and thorough preparation to protect both your business aspirations and your long-term financial security.

[1] https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/rollovers-as-business-start-ups-compliance-project
[2] https://www.guidantfinancial.com/401k-business-financing-robs-guide/how-rollovers-for-business-startups-work/
[3] https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/small-business/rollovers-as-business-startups-robs
[4] https://www.bankrate.com/loans/small-business/what-are-robs/
[5] https://www.icemiller.com/thought-leadership/rollovers-as-business-start-ups-robs-what-to-know-when-financing-a-business-using-your-401k-ira-or-other-retirement-fundsLevar