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Becoming a Small Business Owner

By Dave Ramsey
Author, The Total Money Makeover – Don't let your money control you. Take back the reigns with smart tips from financial counselor Dave Ramsey.

Buying In Debt Free

Dear Dave,

I have an opportunity to buy a landscaping supply business. The current owner said he made $250,000 last year, and he’s on track to make even more this year. There are three employees, and he’s asking $390,000 for everything. The building is included in the price, but the land would be either a lease or purchase. Do you have any advice for taking advantage of a situation like this without going into debt?

– John

Dear John,

I’m glad you’re looking at this venture with an eye on staying debt-free. There would be a lot more small business success stories if all entrepreneurs thought this way!

One of the things you could do is work a deal where you take over management of the company and have an option to buy over time. You would pay the owner a percentage of the net profits, which would go toward your ownership. You’d take out enough to live on, but everything else would go toward your purchase of the company.

You said the guy is asking $390,000, but how do you know it’s really worth that much? He told you he “made” $250,000 last year. Was that how much he carried home? Or was that what he grossed? How much is he paying those three employees? Do they have contracts, or could you let them go? I mean, he could be grossing $250,000 and literally taking nothing home, or the expenses could be $350,000 and the business wouldn’t be worth anything. There’s just a whole lot more you need to know before you do this deal.

As far as the building is concerned, I’d say no to the idea of owning a structure on someone else’s land. I’m not paying him for his building unless the ground comes with it. You can rent the building and land from him after you become the business owner. I’d put the land and building in a separate deal, and lease them with an option to buy later – after I purchase the business. By doing this, you just lowered the purchase price of the business considerably because you took the building out of the equation.

Is the business paying him rent for the building and land now? If this guy isn’t charging any rent against his calculation of net profit, then the figures aren’t realistic. It’s also not realistic if he’s not paying himself anything to manage and run the business.

The bottom line is this: be smart, and do your research before you make a move on this one!


A Lot College

Dear Dave,

We have five kids under the age of five. We’d like for all of them to be able to go to college, but we’re not sure how much it will cost. Our household income in about $90,000 a year, and we have no debt except for our home. What’s the best route to go with our college savings plan?


Dear Laura,

Whew! Boy, you guys have got a house full and your hands full! You’ve also got a nice income, and that’s going to help a lot. Right now, the most you can put into an Educational Savings Account (ESA) is $2,000 per year. If you did this annually for each kid, you have a little over $100,000 per child when it comes time to send them off to college. Pretty sweet, isn’t it? That will buy a good education at just about any state school.

For the first $2,000, an ESA has more flexibility than a 529 plan. They’re very similar in how they act, but with an ESA you’re in total control of the investment. You can move it around, and put it into almost any mutual fund. If you use the ESA or a 529 for anything other than college you’ll get hit with a 15 percent penalty, plus the tax rate, so start brainwashing the kids now; it’s for college only!

For more financial advice and a special offer to our readers, please visit  or call 1-888-22-PEACE.

Dave SaysDave Ramsey is a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host and author of the New York Times bestselling books, Financial Peace Revisited and The Total Money Makeover. His life-changing advice in the area of personal finance helps people get out of debt, stay out of debt and build wealth that will last a lifetime and beyond.

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