Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. With his wife Holly, Greg co-owns two websites – Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. The couple has also co-authored a book, Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You'll Love. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @ClubThrifty.
I am an English major and a herbalist with so many ideas and no extra income to fulfill them. I recently started renting my extra apartment in the attic with Airbnb. It’s amazing how fast I accumulated some money for few hours of work between guests. Now I want to persue all my dreams of opening an online herbal store, publishing my ebook of treating Ulcerative Colitis with herbs, blogs, and videos, and pretty much all of the ideas mentioned here. I will save this article as its really helpful for whomever needs some ideas…
Passive income is an incredible tool that everyone should include in their retirement plans. With traditional investing you have to rely on the stock market to increase your investments over time. The longer you have your money invested, the more your money will grow. The stock market does not produce passive income, except in the form of dividends. Most dividends are extremely small and produce small returns on investment. The bulk of stock market returns come from an increase in stock market prices. The only way to realize those increase in value is to sell stock. Retirement calculators that use the stock market as an investment plan on you running out of money when you die because you have to sell all your investments to keep bringing money in.
I watched an episode of Shark Tank once where I was introduced to Major Robert Dyer. Major Dyer was pitching a new energy drink called The Ruck Pack Energy Drink. It’s not like the world needs another energy drink, but he was able to convince both Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjevic, two of the investors on the show, to give him $150k in exchange for 20 percent of the company.
If someone stole my hard work and passed it off as their own, I’d be livid and would pursue them to the ends of the Earth for full restitution. A man I hired to work with me registered my preferred domain name of my business and has re-registered it in subsequent years. That’s bad enough; I’m mad as hell. The worst aspect of his behaviour is that I don’t know WHY he has done that; I paid him the fee we had agreed on and thanked him for his input. We also got along perfectly well during the project so far as I know, so I don’t see what his problem is.
One of the best ways to build wealth is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts on their Dashboard so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going.
Love your articles. I think everyone is very different as far as how much passive income they need to meet their goals. I’ve read a lot of your articles and really enjoy your thoughts. I have a masters in finance and understand the math of keeping the debt but my emotions are such that I need to try to finish off paying off my last debt (mortgage) in the next two years. At 34 and only worth 525k I’m doing better than a lot of folks my age but it will be difficult for me to catch up in the passive income game without leverage. That is the main reason I recently created a website to try to bring passive income opportunities in my area to me.
4) Treat Passive Income Like A Game. The only real way to begin your multiple passive income journey is when you are making active income. The initial funding has to come from somewhere. Hence, treat passive income as a game that has various levels. If you fail to achieve one level, it’s not the end of the world since you still have active income and can restart. Furthermore, a game is meant to be played with integrity. Using shortcuts (non passive income streams), someone else’s income as a supplement (spouse), or one-offs (capital gains) does not count. The primary purpose of any game is to bring enjoyment to the player and beat the boss.
Amazon affiliate program is a great way to promote physical products through a reliable, trustworthy, and well-known online store. The fact that everyone knows Amazon is probably their biggest advantage. On the downside, commissions are fairly small - they start at 4% for most products and can go as high as 8% depending upon how many sales you make. However, when you send someone to Amazon, you earn a commission on whatever they buy within 24 hours of clicking your link, whether they end up buying the product you promoted or not. So, for example, if you promoted a book but the person you sent to Amazon ended up buying an expensive camera as well, you’ll get the commission for both the book and the camera. This can add up.
Speaking from our own experience, you can’t be a passive McDonald’s franchisee. Every McDonald’s potential franchisee will need to complete at least thousands of hours of training before he/she would be approved to acquire a franchise and only if he/she has the financial resources to acquire a franchise. It could take years before one would get a single store franchise. Until the franchisee eventually has acquired multiple stores and established his/her own management team, the franchisee would have to put his/her nose to the grindstone and work his/her ass off every day. I won’t call it a passive investment by any stretch of imagination.

Awesome article…if this does not give somebody a clear roadmap, they probably were never going to get there in the first place! I’m kind of like you trying to figure out where to place “new” money and maturing CD’s in this low interest environment. Rates have to go up eventually…I dream of the days again where you can build a laddered bond portfolio paying 8%. I plan for a 5.5% blended rate of return, with big downside protection.
From what he describes, creating passive income definitely does not sound easy. It requires a serious ramp-up -- often requires 80- to 100-hour workweeks in the beginning, says Flynn. But once up and running, and depending on the content, some sites take fairly minimal maintenance. Green Exam Academy, the LEED exam study site he launched in 2008, takes just him four to five hours a month to maintain but brings in $250,000 annually. 

Instead of working in the service framework, passive income necessitates that we build (or otherwise acquire) something that inherently contains value, which can then be easily and repeatedly transferred to others with little or no work. Plain and simple, we have to create or buy valuable assets, preferably ones that deliver their value automatically. There are a lot of ways to do this, but they all fall into the 3 categories above, and realistically, a lot of them look like different flavors of the same thing.
In Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup, a fantastic book about how today’s entrepreneurs and startup companies are approaching the way they create and innovate, Eric talks about how vital it is to use validated learning and scientific experimentation to be able to steer a company in the right direction. In other words, to use customer feedback and quantified data analysis (of real, non-vanity metrics) from a minimal viable product to make decisions and pivot a business one way or another. https://i.ytimg.com/vi/WYVJ_E2Wqa4/maxresdefault.jpg
I run a real estate team that sells houses. I have eight people on my team and many of them are real estate agents. I also have assistants and contract managers who help with paper work and the ins and outs of the business. I sell houses myself (mostly REO and HUD), but many houses are sold without me doing any work. I get a part of those commission checks, because I set up the team, offer training and help my agents succeed. My business is not truly passive, but if I want to go on vacation for a couple of weeks I still have money coming in without me doing any work. There are thousands of business that can be started, but I think becoming a real estate agent is a great way to become an entrepreneur.
A perfect example of the Active Problem Solving + Automation concept is in my online courses I’ve created over the years, or my free webinars I’ve created more recently Each of my online courses and webinars are targeted to help people with specific problems, whether that’s in the area of affiliate marketing, podcasting, building a brand, and so forth. I am always improving upon the courses, but they are also evergreen for my audience.
It is very important to understand that contacting a “professional” to learn how to do this only results in them trying to sell me crap properties (whether high end or low end). I’ve tried contacting realtors out of state, and they attempt to sell me crap or someone else’s problem. No one has a vested interest in actually helping someone or teaching them about how to get an out of state rental. very frustrating. I could go out tomorrow and buy a rental in my city, but that is the last place I want to own one. Anyone? Are there an real people on here?
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.
For me, this has worked out brilliantly. Because I had passive income streams set up, I didn’t have to worry about generating sales immediately, raising funds from investors so that I can eat, etc. I could take my time, try out 100 different opportunities, and ultimately settle on a business that suited my needs (the one that I’m running now), which allows me to live and work wherever I want and whenever I want, and is, for the most part, fully autonomous. But I didn’t always have passive income — in fact, it took a lot of trial and error and a lot of learning (do yourself a favor and read Rich Dad Poor Dad — iBooks Link Here) before I had anything worth mentioning.
What I’m doing: I view passive income as funny money to keep myself sane during this long journey. I estimate 2-10 years to get to my goal depending on how active I am. The dollars created are just points one can accumulate. I’ve made passive income goals for each passive income type and check in at least once a year like I am now to make sure I’m on track. Passive income is also carefully managed to minimize tax liability. When you can build a buffer for a buffer, you are then free to take more risks.
Speaking from our own experience, you can’t be a passive McDonald’s franchisee. Every McDonald’s potential franchisee will need to complete at least thousands of hours of training before he/she would be approved to acquire a franchise and only if he/she has the financial resources to acquire a franchise. It could take years before one would get a single store franchise. Until the franchisee eventually has acquired multiple stores and established his/her own management team, the franchisee would have to put his/her nose to the grindstone and work his/her ass off every day. I won’t call it a passive investment by any stretch of imagination.
I have to agree. Our Duplex cost us 200k initially in 1998. Over time and completely refurbishing the property with historically appropriate sensitivity, we invested another 200k or so. We just had a realtor advise us we could ask 700k for it today. It nets us 30k annually after taxes, insurance and maintenance. We still have a loan on it which I have not taken into account, that will be paid off within 5 years if we keep it. My mental drama now is, while I am quite giddy over the prospect of earning a tidy sum of profit if I sell, what then would I do to equal the ROI and monthly income this thing generates? Rents are low, they should be 4k a month and will only go up. Tempted to keep it and not sell. And while I do have some stocks, I basically suck at them. I am much better at doing properties.

One of the most appealing options, particularly for millennials, would be #12 on your list (create a Blog/Youtube channel). The videos can be about anything that interests you, from your daily makeup routine (with affiliate links to the products you use), recipes (what you eat each day) or as you mention, instructional videos (again with affiliate links to the products you use). Once you gain a large following and viewership, you can earn via Adsense on YouTube.

For someone my age, I have an extremely low risk portfolio of mutual funds, foreign currency, and bonds. It’s made a bit more risky by my recent exposure to cryptocurrency, but that’s the only “high risk” activity going on here. Nothing exciting, but it pays some nice dividends and beats the hell out of keeping money in a savings account. This is a way for me to hedge against the risk I incur by angel investing in startups.
There’s a second downside to this model. Although I’ve done advertising and sponsorships in the past, and have made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so, the truth is it takes a lot of time for this business model to start to generate income for you, because you need to build that audience first. In addition, what happens when you build your audience on a platform that ends up changing its algorithm, affecting how often you actually get seen by the audience you’ve built?
Do you have stuff in your basement, attic or garage that's collecting dust? If you do, pack up the SUV or car and kids and go to a flea market. You could make a couple of hundred, even thousands, of dollars, depending on what you're selling. You'll want to go to flea markets every weekend or at least every other weekend. Make an event out of it, and show your kids how easy it is to earn money selling their stuff.

Awesome article…if this does not give somebody a clear roadmap, they probably were never going to get there in the first place! I’m kind of like you trying to figure out where to place “new” money and maturing CD’s in this low interest environment. Rates have to go up eventually…I dream of the days again where you can build a laddered bond portfolio paying 8%. I plan for a 5.5% blended rate of return, with big downside protection.
If you're an expert in your field, you can generate income by answering people’s questions online. Just Answer.com, for instance, allows you to join their team of experts and serve a customer base of more than 20 million people. If you’re a travel expert, check out flightfox.com. They have great reviews and positive commentary pretty much everywhere.
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What is refer-a-friend? Essentially, you make money for using a service and telling others how great it is. Most of the times, you’ll get a unique link that you can share with friends directly or throughout social media. Whenever anybody clicks your link and signs up and/or makes a purchase, you’ll get a bonus. The bonus can be in the form of cold hard cash or an account credit.

Why? Because you’re working a 42 hour week and that’s probably your earnings ceiling unless you add other income streams. 4 hours per week is best for me, since I have domestic responsibilities I’d much rather be addressing: Still, when I get the chance, I love working my socks off on something I enjoy, which is helping and teaching other people to be successful. It’s more fun and more productive to share 🙂


Nah you misunderstood me. I’m working 50 hours a week now to get residency and only taking a couple of classes. I’ll be working 10-20 hours a week when I go back to schoool full time a year from now. I tried working 35 hours and school full time but got burned out last year so no more of that. My grades are so-so. I got a 3.7gpa in all my GE’s and really on a conservative basis planning to remain around there which would mean 1 B for every 2 A’s. To get residency realistically I got to earn 300 dollars in taxable income a week for a year, and in the meantime am allowed to go to school part time given the fact that I can pay for school with the money I have earned within the period I began to establish residency, so no outside cash because my bank accounts will be audited at the end of the year.
Purchase the rights to royalties. Royalties are payments made for the use or sale of intellectual property, like a song, book, or trademarked product. These royalties are paid from the seller of the property to its creator. You can earn royalty payments either by creating the intellectual property yourself or by buying royalty rights from someone else. In the latter case, you can buy the rights for a lump sum and then receive regular royalty payments that will eventually return you your initial investment.[3]
Rentals, just like stocks, throw off cash. With rentals we call that cash “rent”, and with stocks we call it dividends. A significant difference however is that the S&P 500 has appreciated at ~6% per year (above inflation) for the last 100 years…..Real Estate has had almost 0 growth above inflation. So are rents higher than dividends? Maybe, maybe not. But unless you got one heck of a deal, the delta in rent over dividends will have a very tough time making up for the 6% per year difference in appreciation.
I wanted to specifically call out one particular strategy within equity investing that bears mentioning – dividend growth investing is when you focus on stocks that not only pay a dividend but have a history of strong dividend growth. When I was first building my portfolio of individual stocks, I focused on buying companies with a history of dividends, a history of strong growth, and financials that supported a continuation of both.
And if you think, I am not a photographer, creator or designer and don’t have money to invest in real estates, ETFs and so on - don’t worry. We will also cover dozens of strategies that require no up-front investments and that could potentially earn you thousands of dollars every month - like renting out a room in your apartment via Airbnb, putting ads on your car, renting it our, hosting webinars, building a membership site, teaching online and much more! 
I personally haven’t tried any of the below methods so I can't speak from experience to how they work. In my mind, the most lucrative way is through building a REAL business online and providing your visitors with great value. However, after some thought, I decided to include these here because, quite often, the biggest roadblock for many is a mental one: believing that making money online is possible. From my experience, once you have made your first dollar, or even your first cent online, the world is suddenly a different color.
While having multiple streams of income is ideal, you need to choose the right one for you. For example, if you want to earn money from a blog, you need to pay for web hosting, choose the right niche, design your website (or have someone design it for you), create a blogging schedule, share your posts, develop a community, guest blog, and choose the best affiliates for your blog niche. Blogging is work, but it is fun!

Money from dividends, for example, are taxed at a lower rate than money from a job. A business owner who works in the company she or he founded would have to pay more self-employment payroll taxes compared to someone who merely had a passive interest in the same limited liability company who would pay only income taxes. In other words, the same income earned actively would be taxed at a higher rate than if it were earned passively. 

This encompasses everything from eBooks to stock images and even Udemy courses. The idea here is to create a digital good that has value. Why digital? Well, if you’re creating really unique hand-made socks, you can’t just duplicate them and resell them. Furthermore, you have to pack and ship each pair. Both of these things mean that there’s a fixed ratio of labor to income, and we’ve already discussed why that’s not ideal. Digital goods can be duplicated, and we can engineer systems (or use online marketplaces) to deliver them automatically. Awesome.
I need to create a passive income stream that has a definable risk profile.I have $250k cash as a safety net in my savings account getting a measily 40 bps but I am somewhat ok with this as it is Not at risk or fluctuation (walk street is tougher nowadays). i have 270k in equity in my house, thinking of paying off the mortgage but probably does make sense since my rate is 3.125 on a 30 yr. I have 275k in my 401(k) and another 45k in a brokerage account that is invested in stocks that pay dividends.
Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, which is launching from Penguin/Portfolio in September. It’s a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital at any age. Michael sends manifestos, recommendations, tips, and other exclusive content to his private email list, which you can join at www.ellsberg.com. Connect with him on Twitter @MichaelEllsberg and on Facebook.
Starting a blog is one of the most popular side hustles to earn online income. This is because whether you have 10 people or 10 million reading your content, the amount of your effort to write an article is the same. Websites have low start-up costs and you can literally buy your domain, launch your site and have a few pages created in less than an hour. You won’t start making money right away, but you will be building towards that first $1 of income.
The much loved model for bloggers and content creators everywhere and for a good reason…it’s pretty easy to write a 60-80 page ebook, not hard to sell say $500 worth a month through online networking, guest posting and your own SEO optimized blog, and well you get to keep a large whack of the pie after paying affiliates.  Hells yeah!  Continue reading >
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