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4. Auto finance

J.D. Byrider

Service: used-car sales and financing

Year founded: 1989

Number of franchises: 130

Headquarters: Indianapolis

Investment costs: $671,000 to $5,180,000

Fit for 50-plus? The business is relatively quiet. Most of the action happens behind a desk, although there is plenty of interaction with customers.

But: The economy is troubled, and you're working with customers who haven't got the best credit.

Spotlight: Ward Griffith, 61, Baltimore.

Ten years ago, Griffith was a CPA with nearly 30 years in the business and wondering what he would do when he reached his firm's retirement age of 62. One day he joined two auto-dealer clients to meet with a representative from J.D. Byrider.

"At the time, I thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of, loaning money to people who can't get traditional bank financing," says Griffith. But he ended up being "mesmerized" with the business and decided to buy a franchise.

Next July, he'll turn 62, happily employed as his own boss.

Griffith spent three years "working really hard" but now goes to the office when he feels like it. He vacations in Florida and Europe.

He and his silent partner have 30 employees and are planning to add a second location to their mini-empire in 2011.

His customers are "blue collar," he says, not nearly as smooth or sophisticated as some more affluent people he knows, "but I'd much rather work with them than ... lawyers I've dealt with."

He says it feels "tremendously good" to help people who couldn't otherwise buy a car.

His advice: Choose a business where there's not a lot of competition. Drive down any street and you'll see lots of fast-food restaurants, but not used-car finance companies.

Investing for retirement: car service center >>

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