There are three main categories of income: active income, passive income and portfolio income. Passive income has been a relatively loosely used term in recent years. Colloquially, it’s been used to define money being earned regularly with little or no effort on the part of the person receiving it. Popular types of passive income include real estate, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and dividend stocks. Proponents of earning passive income tend to be boosters of a work-from-home and be-your-own-boss professional lifestyle. The type of earnings people usually associate with this are gains on stocks, interest, retirement pay, lottery winnings, online work and capital gains. 
And real estate does more than just track inflation – it throws off income (which is important to some people and useful to most). And while your underlying asset is appreciating, the income also grows as rents increase over time. And if you make smart and well-timed purchases, both rents and asset values can increase at well above the rate of inflation.
There’s a saying that the biggest opportunity for improvement is at the margin. Boiled down, this means that you can reap big rewards for minor adjustments in behavior. Instead of using a check, debit card or cash to pay for daily activities and big expenses, using a cashback credit card can earn you a sizeable return each year. One of my favorite cards, the Discover it will even double all of the cash back you earn the first year!
You know the fantasy: write some ebook (or better yet, hire freelancers in Mumbai to research and write it for you at $.20/word!) on some niche topic, set up AdWords and Facebook campaigns targeted to the right keywords (you can hire those Mumbai guys to do your keyword research too), put up a cheap landing page (with copy written by... guess who!), press "Go!" on the PPC campaign, and voilà. . . just wait for the money to roll in while you sleep!
* I use Personal Capital to track all my finances in one place. It’s much easier to use their free software to follow 28 accounts on one platform than to log into various accounts to check my balances. They’ve also got great tools for x-raying your portfolio for excessive fees, recommending a more optimized asset allocation, and planning for retirement with their Retirement Planner.
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.
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. 

Ebooks are one of my favorite sources of passive income. Now, you can do this the simple way and just publish it on Amazon's KDP. Or, you can go all out and build yourself a book funnel. Book funnels are powerful, but they won't be fully passive. For example, if you do a free-plus-shipping offer for your ebook (converting it into a physical book), you'll need to create some one-time offers (i.e. extra training) and up-sells (i.e. an audiobook). But, a book funnel can be very powerful.
Remember, a successful business solves people’s problems. At first, you’re going to have to do the legwork and put in the time. But it’s about building something now so you can reap the benefits later, with the help of software, tools, automation, and people you hire. In this way, you can then turn this business that solves people’s problems into something that generates passive income for you!
One aspect you might want to add to your scoring is “inflation protection”. At one end, bonds and CDs generally pay a fixed nominal coupon that doesn’t rise with inflation. Stock dividends and Real estate rents (and underlying property value) tend to. Not reallly sure how P2P lending ranks- though I suppose the timeframes are fairly short (1 year or less?) and therefore the interest you receive takes into account the current risk free rate + a premium for your risk. Now that I think about it, P2P lending probably deserves a lower score in the activity column than bonds too (since you probably need to make new loans more often).
I just wanted to say how nice it is to see such a positive exchange between strangers on the Internet. Seriously, not only was this article (list) motivating and well-drafted, the tiny little community of readers truly were a pleasant crescendo I found to be the cause of an inward smile. Thank you, everyone, and good luck to you all with your passive income efforts!! 🙂
2. Treat Passive Income like a game, cheating is using your spouses income in this game. I understand some of the premise behind this, but I’m married, my wife has an income and we have a rental house that we consider ours. I’m not sure how I would count this since we also use another part of our own home(also rental income) to pay down the Rental house.
Anthony, nice setup! To your question about the rental mortgages, you haven’t said what interest rate you are paying. As a start, if you are paying more than the risk free rate (Treasury bills) which you probably are, then a true apples to apples comparison would be yes, pay off the mortgage. But, if you are comfortable taking more risk, you have other options to invest in which you *hope* will yield you more over the coming years. You also didn’t say whether the rentals generate net income and if so, how much? What is the implied rate of return on the equity you have invested in them? If you pay the mortgages off, you’ll have even more equity tied up, will the extra net income make that worthwhile? Maybe you should use the money to buy more rentals instead, if purchase opportunities still exist in your town. … this is less of an answer than a framework to analyze the decision, hope it is helpful.
Renting value is exactly what you do when you go to work every day. This is a great way to adhere to our rule against one-time consumption, although you can only rent something to one person at a time (drawback). By renting something, I can generally avoid degradation of the value, or at least lessen it. By renting you a house, I’m charging you for the value of the shelter and comfort, and in fact incur pretty minimal decrease in value as your usage of the house causes wear and tear. When you’re done renting the house, there’s still plenty of value left to rent out, and the fact that you’ve enjoyed a year or two of value doesn’t much matter to the next willing consumer.
Hey Mike! Love this article. Recently, I paid off my student loans and am crazy focused on creating multiple passive income streams. Currently, all my passive income comes from real estate and because of your great articles on the subject I called to check out refinance options! I had no clue about CD laddering, dividend investing or P2P lending until two weeks ago when I started doing my research on where to put my hard earned money. I had been just saving it but when I looked at the terrible 0.01% return I said forget it! 2 % for me is a great way to start. It is better than what I have been getting outside of my real estate. Also, creating products is a must! I’m working on this type of royalty too. I find it so exciting to learn how to use your money to make money. Thanks and I will be sure to link to you when I start my blog!

I just started out with Affiliate Marketing (idea # 8) and it is not as easy as people make out to be. For me, the hardest part so far, is learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and driving traffic to my website. I’m only 3 months into it, but I am confident that the site will begin to generate some incom., I have to give it 6-9 months, so we’ll see.
Mike, I don’t consider the income from FS to be passive, as I’m spending time commenting to you right now. But since 75% of my traffic comes from search, the most traffic I would probably lose is 25% for probably a year. And then my search word rankings would probably slowly fade given frequency of posting new content is one of the search algo variables.
Teachable and Udemy are two of many, but these are the most prevalent, and they’re both intuitive and user-friendly. With Teachable, you have more control over your pricing and the look and feel of your course, but you don’t get a built-in audience. Instead you have to do all the marketing yourself. Udemy has a built-in base of students, but you don’t have as much control and they take more of your revenue.
Ideal locations are those that have relatively high per-capita incomes in communities that have strong local economies, low unemployment rates, and high-occupancy rental markets. Empty units cost money. Keeping them full with responsible and well-employed long-term renters will help to ensure your long-term success and continued passive income. Look for markets with job growth, Fortune 500 companies or that will soon be the home of a major new factory or large corporation as this can fuel a higher demand for housing than the present inventory can handle. The result is an increase in property value and a stable pool of potential tenants.
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.
“The biggest surprise is real estate being second to last on my Passive Income Ranking List because I’ve written that real estate is my favorite investment class to build wealth. Real estate doesn’t stack up well against the other passive income sources due to the lack of liquidity and constant maintenance of tenants and property. The returns can be huge due to rising rental income AND principal over time, much like dividend investing. If you are a “proactive passive income earner” like myself, then real estate is great.”
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I wish there was a product that did this,” then invent it! Create a product, medical or otherwise, and sell it as a company or get royalties for it. It’s not impossible to figure out, I have many friends who have taken a concept to market. Don’t overlook an invention as a fantastic means of attaining passive income.
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P.S. I also fail to understand your fascination with real estate. Granted we’ve had some impressive spikes along the way, especially with once in a life time bubble we just went through. But over the long term (see Case Shiller real estate chart for last 100 years ) real estate tends to just track inflation. Why would you sacrifice stock market returns for a vehicle that historically hasn’t shown a real return?
Lending Club is a platform where you can lend your money to other people. You’re the bank. Each note is only $25, so you can invest $1,000 and lend money to 40 people. There are many grades of loan (from safest to riskiest) and investors earn, on average, between 5% and 7% annualized returns. For more information, check out Investing and Making Money with Lending Club Peer-to-Peer Lending and my real money Lending Club Portfolio.
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