When you buy a turn-key rental property you are saving a lot of time and work, by letting the turn-key company complete the repairs, find the property and manage the property. You are giving up equity in the property over buying one yourself, because you aren’t doing any of the work. You have to decide if the time you save is worth the equity you give up. Typical returns I have seen on turn-key properties have been in the 10 percent range.
In expensive cities like San Francisco and New York City, net rental yields can fall as low as 2%. This is a sign that there is a lot of liquidity buying property for property appreciation, and not so much for income generation. This is a riskier proposition than buying property based on rental income. In inexpensive cities, such as those in the Midwest, net rental yields can easily be in the range of 8% – 12%, although appreciation may be slower.
Do you think it’s possible to build a blog from scratch, outsourcing the work from day one (assuming I have some cash that can cover the initial expenses until the blog generates enough income to at least break even)? In other words, do you think you could you have spent your $500 max per month for the writer, social media expert, etc to build your blog to the point it’s earning the same amount of money it does now?
Question: You mention receiving $200k of passive income a year, but your chart shows half of that coming from real estate holdings, and reading between the lines it appears that you hold mortgages against those holdings. Then you conclude that $200k/yr of passive income should be enough to live comfortably anywhere in the world. So are you subtracting your real estate expenses (taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, maintenance, remote property management company fees, etc.) when you report your passive income from those properties? Really I think it’s the net (after taxes and everything) that tells us what is left over to “spend” on living, right? When I set up my spreadsheet to retire early at age 47, I calculated the after-tax income I would need to live. Then I compared that to my income streams (estimating tax on the taxable income streams) to measure the surplus/shortfall. Also some good advice from GoCurryCracker: If you can minimize your taxes so you’re in the 15% tax bracket, you can possibly receive tax-free long term capital gains. I agree with your philosophy that time is more important than money as we age. I am not sure I agree with a philosophy that is fixated on needing such a large income, and would rather minimize taxes if it’s all the same on the happiness meter. Furthermore, having 20 plus income sources in the name of diversification adds stress and requires more management (TIME!). I think this is fine for those of us while young, as we have the energy to work hard. But as time becomes more important, the extra headache of managing, planning, and buying/selling our assets becomes a resented hindrance on par with the resentment we felt when working for an employer and fighting traffic each day to go to a job we hated. Every thing we own in actuality owns us, by virtue of its demands on our time and affections, and that includes investments. It also includes our home, and is a good reason for downsizing. As long as we have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our bodies, what more do we need? I think we need to consider freeing ourselves from the weight of the chains of managing too many ventures. Personally, I plan on investing in no more than 5 simultaneous ventures ever, with the exception of some IRAs that I just plan to let sit for the next 20 years (and therefore no thought or anxiety required).
Finally, I imagine the biggest debate with my ranking is Creating Your Own Product as the #1 passive income source. If most people have never created their own product, then it’s easy to give it a thumbs down. There won’t be much complaint about Private Equity Investing being in last place because most people are not accredited investors. But given I believe that plenty of people can create their own product if they try, pushback is inevitable because a lot of people simply don’t try!
The idea behind cashback is simple: you get rewarded for purchasing or using products you plan to buy anyway. Cashback sites pay you when you click through them, go to retailers, and spend. For example, check out eBates.com - There are over 2,000 stores to choose from including Walmart, Target, Sears, Calvin Klien, and others. You also get a $10 gift card after your first $25 purchase. Sign up is free. (If you encounter a cashback site where it’s not, avoid it.
Of course, you can make honst money in Internet info-products, or affiliate marketing, or other such areas where people tend to get drawn to "passive income" fantasies. But, to make real money over the sustainable long-haul, you must treat these like any other business. In other words, you must provide real value to real customers with a real need.
Like many, I was first really turned on to the idea of passive income by Tim Ferriss. In The Four Hour Work Week, he describes the system he developed with BrainQuicken, where the marketing, shipping, reordering, banking, and even customer service of the company was on complete auto-pilot. I found this idea intoxicating. The idea that Tim could travel the world learning to tango and staying on private islands while money just accumulated in his bank account seemed like some strange fiction — surely, this isn’t how people actually live, is it?
All ideas take some amount of time and money to come to fruition. Some people have a lot of one of these, but not much of the other. A lot of successful ideas have started when one person had the resources that another did not. And many businesses have been started using 0% loans from credit cards to fund their concept and keep the business going until it achieved success.
This may all seem like a lot of work but it’s how professional real estate investors do it. If you are buying rental properties on a hunch and just paying what you feel like the property is worth, you’re going to end up over-paying. Understanding exactly how much a property is worth will put you ahead in the negotiations and get you the best price possible.

I wish I had more time to put into real estate. Given the run up since 2012, I may even be interested in selling my condo that I currently rent out. I need to get it appraised to really see what it’s worth, but I think conservatively it’s gone up ~50%, although rent is probably only up ~10% or so. I am bullish on rents going up in the future… mostly in line with inflation, or perhaps even slightly faster due to constricted credit and personal income growth which should provide a solid supply of renters. At this point, I just don’t want to manage the property. I’ll probably look into a property manager as my time is likely worth turning it into a nearly passive investment.
Sam…just read this article and I want to say that this is the best posting on passive income I have ever read…in a blog, article, or book. Thanks for making a difference and being an inspiration as to how it can all be accomplished. One of the great benefits of the internet is that people are willing to share their stories and experiences with each other online. If we had this when I was working professionally (20-40 years ago), it would have saved me from making some rather poor financial decisions that affected my retirement income. In a way, the internet is making up for the loss of financial security in the loss of The Defined Benefit Plan for retirement. Bravo!

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.
It is probably the biggest digital products marketplace online. Clickbank uses a very helpful measure called ‘gravity’ to represent how well a product sells, based on how many sales have been made and how recent these sales were. There’s one thing you want to be aware of though! ClickBank will withhold payment of any balance until an account shows a minimum of 5 sales using at least two types of payment methods. Not only that, if you made a sale but had no earnings for an extended period of time, your account will be subject to an ongoing penalty. This means that your affiliate earnings can potentially drop to zero. Nowadays, I rarely promote Clickbank products.
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.

This was a very inspirational article! I too spent 20+ years in a high-stress career selling a high-end product under a 100 percent commission plan; that is, no salary! I realized, after racking up millions of frequent flyer miles, that there had to be a better and less-stressful way of making a living. My goal was to design my own lifestyle free of corporate shackles, which required a pre-determined amount of passive income.
It’s been almost 10 years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good income stream online now. Financial Samurai has given me a purpose in early retirement. And, I’m having a ton of fun running this site as well! Here’s a real snapshot of a personal finance blogger who makes $150,000+ a year from his site and another $180,000 from various consulting opportunities due to his site.
Creating passive income is the key to retiring, especially retiring early. If you want to retire early with the stock market you will have to save a huge amount of money, because that money has to last so long and retirement calculators depend on you using your investment to fund your life. With passive income you will have income coming in as long as you own the investment, without every eating away at the principle invested. Creating passive income may take more work than investing in the stock market, but I think it is well worth the extra effort!
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