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Springfield resident TJ Pecorak, 61, was in the real estate development business for nearly 40 years, staring off as a laborer in his early twenties and eventually becoming a regional area president for Toll Brothers Inc.

“I think that throughout my career, I have probably had a hand in developing at least 20,000 residential units and I probably would still be doing it if it hadn’t been for the 2008 financial meltdown and credit crunch,” he said.

Pecorak recently decided to leave the corporate world and take a more active hand in financing his future by buying a CertaPro Painters franchise.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Employee Benefit Research Institute, 70 percent of U.S. workers polled in the institute’s 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey said they plan to work for pay after they retire. Sixty-two percent of those cite a decrease in the value of their savings or investments as the reason for this choice.

“It’s a brave new retirement world out there,” said Percorak. “When the federal government starts talking about slaughtering sacred cows like home mortgage deductions and capping 401Ks, I can’t possibly imagine someone sitting back at the stage in their life where I am, and thinking things will get better. We have definitely entered the ‘Look out for yourself’ era when it comes to retirement.”

Joe Prendergrass of Vienna, 67, agrees. Prendergrass is a retired lawyer for the ski resort lobby who says he realized that taking his own retirement by the horns was the only way to go.

Predergrass partnered with his 35-year-old daughter and also bought into the franchise business as a way of providing for his retirement. The father-daughter duo recently opened a series of Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurants throughout northern Virginia, including one in Fairfax scheduled to open May 13. Others are slated for Reston and the Tysons Corner area in the near future.

“To me, it just made sense financially,” Prendergrass said. “It gives me more control and higher yields than I’m going to get anywhere else, and I’m in control.”

So far, he says his franchise approach to retirement has yielded him a nearly 30 percent return on his investment. “That certainly beats the current market rate of about eight percent,” he said.

The father-daughter team has plans to open a total of 5 restaurants by the end of 2013, eventually setting up a total of 15 area stores. Prendergrass’ daughter Anna, 35, says that if all goes well, it will be a retirement plan for her as well. She recently left her career as an investigative reporter and television news anchor. “This was actually my idea,” she said. “I discovered this restaurant while working in Louisville, Ky., and I brought the idea to my dad.”

Joe Prendergrass says that once he fell in love with the food, he was in.

“I liked it, and I’m not easy to please,” he said. “So I decided to marry two concepts; what to do with my retirement planning, and how to best provide for my daughter. I hope this can carry my family a long way and be my legacy.”

Kevin Dougherty, 55, of McLean isn’t quite yet near the traditional retirement age, but he says he too has already taken the franchise approach to retirement and started the ball rolling by leaving his real estate engineering career of nearly 35 years and starting his own Pillar to Post home inspection franchise.

“I opened in February and already have performed 50 inspections,” he said. “I hope to build this business to a point where it is sustainable and run by four or so of my employees in the next 10-15 years, by the time I am ready to retire.”

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com