I will share what we did, because it’s an incredible success story. We used an existing tax loophole where if you sell your primary residence (after having lived there at least two years) you get to keep your profit tax-free. So, we stair-stepped. We bought house after house, at least two years apart, used the profit money to pay down on the next house (so on and so forth, yadda yadda) building up equity as we went along… and now, we own a $600,000 house debt-free. And now we are using our paid-off home as leverage to borrow money to buy commercial buildings to rent out. I like commercial because it’s a BUSINESS transaction… kids, pets, other wear and tear that you see with residential rentals is nonexistent. People take care of their business space much better than residential. You have to be in a good area for renting out commercial – a thriving business community – to make this work. But that’s how we “made it”, and though it took 15 years, we will have residual income to take care of us when we’re old enough to retire. People made fun of us for moving so much, but who’s laughing now? 😉 Oh, and our child only had to change schools once (and we wanted to anyway) because we stayed in the same general area as we moved around. We were careful not to disrupt his life too much.
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. 

There was a time when CDs would produce a respectable 4%+ yield. Nowadays, you’ll be lucky to find a 5-7 year CD that provides anything above 2.5% The great thing about CDs is that there are no income or net worth minimums to invest, unlike many alternative investments, which require investors to be accredited. Anybody can go to their local bank and open up a CD of their desired duration. Furthermore, a CD is FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per individual, and $500,000 per joint account.
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!
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.
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.
Good plan Chloe though I would say include some equity REITs in your real estate investing strategy as well. Mortgage REITs only offer cash flow while equity REITs offer price returns as well, which may be taxed at a lower rate. Real estate crowdfunding is a great new way to invest in real estate and can really help diversify a portfolio. Good luck building to your passive income.
We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.
Occupational therapist Sarah Stromsdorfer founded occupational therapy site MyOTSpot.com three years ago as an online educational resources for occupational therapy students and professionals. She worked on it every weekend, and her site now makes enough income for her to work as an occupational therapist part-time. She believes it will be another year before her site makes enough money for a full-time living of about $4,000 per month. In addition to the digital products she also makes money from ads and online book sales.
Maybe such a business is owning a McDonald’s franchise or something. If one has the capital (Feasibility Score 2), then the returns might be good (Return Score 6). But the Risk Score is probably under a 5, b/c how many times have we seen franchise chains come and go? Like, what happened to Quiznos and Jamba Juice? A McDonald’s franchise was $500,000… probably much more now?

When I buy rental properties I spend a lot of time finding properties, getting them repaired (I use a contractor), getting a LLC put in place and getting them rented. I have my real estate team manage the properties for me, which greatly cuts down on my involvement after the house is ready to rent. Using a property manager is a great way to reduce the amount of time spent on rental properties, but it will cost you from eight to twelve percent of the monthly rents.
I had to get out. I actually had this random Facebook ad come up in my news feed (go figure) and it eventually led me to a webinar that taught on how to start an email marketing business (which is, by the way, the most profitable form of affiliate marketing – or ANY marketing for that matter). I listened through the whole 2 hours, completely mesmerized. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to be focusing on to help my family out of the pit of debt we were in and into a world free of financial stress. I didn’t know if it would actually work, but eventually it lead to EXCESS income!
Well written piece, but I question the core premise. Why the fascination with maximizing “income” (passive or otherwise). Shouldn’t the goal simply be to maximize long-term after tax growth of your entire portfolio? If this takes the form of dividend paying stocks, so be it. But what if small caps are poised to outperform? What if you want to take Buffet’s or Bogle’s advice and just buy a broad market index like the S&P 500, (no matter what the dividend because you’ll just have it automatically reinvested to avoid the transaction fees).
This is the best post I’ve seen on passive income streams. I’m similar to you in that I worked in IBanking for a few years but wanted out. My approach is a little different, instead of starting with the CD’s, I’m trying to build up my net worth with riskier asset classes such as stocks and real estate to get the benefit of compounding. Then, as I approach my retirement year goal, I’ll start moving them into CD and bond ladders. In theory at least, it’s best to have the highest net worth just before retirement, then convert them to risk free passive income. You’re method is more patient and probably more practical than mine. I guess I’m willing to take more risks.

A quick look on Pinterest and you’ll see no shortage of awesome solopreneurs sharing amazing income reports. And many of these #girlbosses are all online courses creators! While these women (and men) are pros now, they weren’t always. Everybody starts at the beginning, so don’t feel like you need to be a well-seasoned pro to earn passive income as a course creator.

"The majority of people I see who are interested in passive income and pursuing it, haven't learned how to create value in the first place. They're just trying to do gimmicks and tricks and formulas. They're trying to do the automation part, but they've missed the point that the automation only spits off cash if it's based first on automating something that actually creates value. If you automate something that is worthless---or worse than worthless, a scam -- it's not going to work in the long run."

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.
For those willing to take on the task of managing a property, real estate can be a powerful semi-passive income stream due to the combination of rental and principal value appreciation. But to generate passive income from real estate, you either have to rent out a room in your house, rent out your entire house and rent elsewhere (seems counterproductive), or buy a rental property. It’s important to realize that owning your primary residence means you are neutral the real estate market. Renting means you are short the real estate market, and only after buying two or more properties are you actually long real estate.

While it is important to find something that you love to do and turn it into a money making business, you do have to be cognizant of the return as you pointed out. There are many opportunities that I found and tried out that at the time seemed great. But when I took a step back, I realized that I was working a lot for very little income whereas other things I love doing brought in much more money.
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!
I really enjoyed how you listed all of the reasons to build passive income streams as well as the framework. You also made an interesting point about freelance writing on how the more skilled writers want to keep posts for their own website. Good insight because freelance writing is something I’ve been looking into for income recently. Also, it’s amazing what you’ve been able to accomplish with your blog over the past 6 years. It’s so motivational to see the success of Financial Samurai. I’m not in a place to afford any consulting, but, I wish I could pick your brain or get mentored by a successful blogger such as yourself…Not trying to blow smoke lol. It would just be so great to have someone who’s done it provide guidance around the direction of the blog, ways to earn, and on the general concept. Always enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing :)
Whether you take a “distribution” (aka free-cash-flow) in the form of a dividend, interest payment, capital gain, maturing ladder of a CD, etc, you are still taking the same amount of cash out of your portfolio. Don’t fall for the trap of sub optimizing your overall portfolio’s performance because your chasing some unimportant trait called “income”.
You’ve probably heard of affiliate marketing before – it’s when you earn a commission by promoting a product. The product you promote online should be something you’re knowledgeable about and that you believe is high quality. Common sense, right? You’d be surprised by how many affiliate marketers forget that principle, but that’s a whole other story.
​Udemy is an online platform that lets its user take video courses on a wide array of subjects. Instead of being a consumer on Udemy you can instead be a producer, create your own video course, and allow users to purchase it. This is a fantastic option if you are highly knowledgeable in a specific subject matter. This can also be a great way to turn traditional tutoring into a passive income stream!

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that conclusively one way or the other. It all depends on you, what you like to do, your work ethic, personality, etc. If you are a good writer perhaps you could write a book and make money that way. Or, you could start your own website and do affiliate marketing. Just because you are young it doesn’t mean you can’t make money doing at least a few of these ideas. I wish you luck in your money making efforts!
Affiliate marketing means you sign up with a company and/or entrepreneur and sell their products. For example, if you start a tech website, you could become an affiliate of a web hosting or anti-virus software company. You can earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month if your website receives a decent amount of web traffic and you have thousands of email subscribers. Being an affiliate marketer takes dedication and time. You need to build traffic via your website, email marketing and social media. Is this for you? You be the judge.
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Unfortunately, I was never great with finances growing up. In fact, I had only recently rid myself of some serious credit card debt that had followed me from college and through a good deal of residency. I had poor spending habits and treated my investments like gambling – trying to hit the home run every time. Unfortunately, I struck out quite a bit.

Stock dividends: Some stocks, especially stocks from big corporate standouts, pay dividends to shareholders based on the number of shares they own, and the percentage of the stock price on the dividend date. For example, if a company pays out 3% on a stock that's trading at $100 per share, you'll earn $3 for every share of that stock you own. Add it up and that can be good take-home pay as a passive investment.
Absolutely Federico. I still invest in real estate but no longer carry the misconceptions that it’s passive income. Fortunately, I’ve held my real estate properties long enough that they cash flow even after paying for management but it was a lot of work in the beginning. Real estate is a great investment but passive income investors should look to REITs and other investments rather than direct investment.
Freelancing is on the verge of going mainstream. Thirty-six percent of the international workforce now freelances, at least part-time. There are also 40.9 million adults in America who are self-employed. Clearly, freelancing is catching on. But with rapid growth come certain challenges, one being an increased competition for well-paying job and price reduction by those who think they can afford low-bidding at least for now.
Making legitimate passive income isn’t as difficult as you might think. Some of the best passive income ideas might take a little time to set up but can start cash flowing within a couple of months and will provide a consistent monthly income for years or more. The most important point is just to get started. You make exactly $0 on the passive income sources you never start.
However, I think for those who are willing to do what it takes, the sky is the absolute limit. As an example, I’m trying to take a page out of FinancialSamauri’s book and create an online personal finance and investing blog. It is an enormous undertaking, and as a new blogger, there is a seemingly endless amount of work to be done. That said, I hope that one day I can not only generate some passive income from the hours of work I have put and will put into the project, but I hope to be able to help OTHERS reach their financial goals.
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