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.
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!
I own several rental properties in the mid west and I live in CA. I have never even seen them in person. With good property management in place (not easy to find but possible) it is definitely possible to own cash flowing properties across the country. Not for everyone and not without it’s drawbacks, but it seems to be working for me so far. I’m happy to answer any questions about my experience with this type of investing.
Who cares, especially when very conservatively, the ultimate passive income includes a six digit or more base lease, plus an estimated additional six digits or more for rate increases and another six digits for more for various smaller and one bigger technology increase at 25 years. All four (base, rate, smaller and mega technology increases) combined, certainly could yield much more depending upon inflation, rate increases and technology increases?
Hi Sam! I loved your sentence, “There’s so much information in my head that I need to write it down or else I might explode.” That’s exactly how I feel! I never thought of myself as a writer, and especially not a blogger, but recently I’ve started dabbling in it and it feels so nice to get everything out! I’m dedicated to helping others succeed with personal finances, and there are plenty of “how-to” sites, but it’s important to get people thinking and motivated to prepare, plan, and save!
I love real estate investing, but it requires a lot of upfront capital plus you are going to have to learn to love your tenants (see point 6 below)! Crowdfunded real estate investing gives you a way to still invest in the real estate market, without having to necessarily put in a lot of money upfront. It’s definitely a much more passive investment than owning a flat or a house!
P2P lending started in San Francisco with Lending Club in mid-2000. The idea of peer-to-peer lending is to disintermediate banks and help denied borrowers get loans at potentially lower rates compared to the rates of larger financial institutions. What was once a very nascent industry has now grown into a multi-billion dollar business with full regulation.

There are a couple of problems with direct investment in real estate though. It’s expensive to buy even a single property, a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars, and there’s no way most investors can build a portfolio of different property types and in different regions to protect from those risks when you have all your money in just one or two investments.
Blogging is still going to take work starting out. That path to $5,000 a month didn’t happen overnight but just like real estate development, it build up an asset that now creates constant cash flow whether I work or not. I get over 30,000 visitors a month from Google search rankings, rankings that will continue to send traffic even if I take a little time off.
Consider refinancing your mortgage if you haven’t done so in a while before interest rates go up further. Or consider leveraging cheap money responsibly to acquire hard assets. LendingTree Mortgage has one of the largest lending networks online, and they will contact you immediately with their offers. You want lenders competing for your business, and get hard quotes so you can pit them against each other.
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?
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.
Your articles are so in-depth and helpful, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I am a 22-yr old finishing my last semester of college, studying Computer Science and Psychology. I’m in a really good place with my finances (2k savings, no student debt, only expenses essentially rent, groceries, and utilities) and I want to get ahead financially so I can pay my parents back and save up a lot.

For those of you who don’t want to come up with a $220,000 downpayment and a $900,000 mortgage to buy the median home in SF or NYC, who don’t want to deal with tenants or remodeling, and who wants to not do any work after the investment is made, check out Fundrise. They are my favorite real estate crowdsourcing company founded in 2012 and based in Washington DC. They are pioneers in the eREIT product offering and they’re raising an Opportunity Fund to take advantage of new tax favorable laws.
ie first you need to haul ass and do something crazy, eg write a quality 20,000 word ebook (insanely not passive hahahah), but then you get to sit back and enjoy seeing PayPal sale messages pop up on your iPhone each morning as sale after sale after sale is made…on an ongoing basis and without any additional work. That’s some seriously Pina Colada flavored passive goodness!
Bravo! Dr. Kim on your courage and innovation and honesty! Medicine has changed from what we knew or thought as kids and continues to change. It requires a constant reassessment to align with our values and dreams. I have seen Robert Kiyosaki speak and tell me I am in the worst tax quadrant which motivated me to join a mastermind group and stretch my mindset on who I am and what is possible. Your blog keeps me heading toward a direction that excites me and balances the intensity of medicine and improves my life. Thank you.

Now, if you choose to deliver part or all of your course in video format, you can use professional video hosting sites like Wistia or Vimeo. Beside giving you the option of removing the hosting company’s logo, these services also provide analytics which can show you how effective your video is at holding your audience’s attention. Alternatively, you can use litmos, a learning management system that enables you to create an online course with your own branding, domain name, and landing page. There is no percentage cut taken from your revenue like Udemy. Instead there is a monthly fee for their service.
However, this situation tends to create additional problems for the freelance and gig economy as a whole. Fifty-seven percent of freelancers already report having cash flow issues. Additionally, 58% of freelancers have also had troubles with getting paid on time. This is troublesome, because while income may not always be constant, expenses certainly are.

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.
5) Determine What Income Level Will Make You Happy. Think back to when you made little to no income as a student. Now think back to the days when you just got started in your career. Were you happy then? Now go over every single year you got a raise or made more money doing something else. How did your happiness change at all, if any? Everybody has a different level of income that will bring maximum happiness due to different desires, needs, and living arrangements. It’s up to you to find out your optimum income level.

This is mostly passive once you have it all set up, but it does take a lot of work at the beginning. Real estate investing also requires occasional maintenance. Currently, we invest in a couple of rental properties and earn about $500 profit from each per month. You can read more about my rental properties at MoneySmartLife.com: How and Why I Became a Landlord.


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.
You can try and start another travel blog, but every twenty-something who’s visited South East Asia has one; the market is so saturated that it will be very difficult for you to stand out and start making money. Instead, if you find something you’re interested in that is underserved, you’re far more likely to be able to carve out a space. You’ve a far greater chance of making money with a blog for vintage BMW owners than another generic Thailand travel guide.
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.
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.
Investing is arguably the easiest way to make passive income.  The problem is most investments sound good in theory but don’t work out so well in practice.  And if you don’t have much experience or access to capital, let alone the time to work it all out, it can seem more or less impossible.  However, there is one smart way to invest that just might work.  Continue reading >
Nobody gets early FI investing in bonds, CD’s, or even stocks unless they make a huge income or are extremely frugal or a combination of both. Paper assets just don’t provide enough returns. Business income can be great but it is typically not as semi-passive as I would like and there is a relatively high failure rate. That is if you can monetize an ideal to begin with. RE investing needs to be higher ranked IMO as a way that the “average guy” can become FI.

Real Estate Crowdsourcing – After selling my SF rental house in mid-2017 for 30X annual gross rent, I  reinvested $550,000 of the proceeds ($810,000 total) in real estate crowdfunding, based in San Francisco. My goal is to take advantage of cheaper heartland real estate with much higher net rental yields (8% – 12% vs. 2% – 3.5% in SF) and diversify away from expensive coastal city real estate which is now under pressure due to new tax policy which limits SALT deduction to $10,000 and new mortgage interest deduction on mortgages of $750,000 from $1,000,000 for 2018 and beyond.


We usually think of Craigslist as a place to buy and trade random stuff, but Craigslist can actually be a great opportunity to sell your services online to an active and engaged audience. Simply check the “jobs” section and “gigs” section for specific cities and see if anything matches your skills. The great thing about Craigslist is that it is one of the highest converting traffic sources on the internet (think active buyers) which can mean more opportunities at higher pay.

I have a total of three CDs left. There is no way in hell I’m selling them after holding them for 4+ years so far to take the penalty. The CDs are for 7 years. That would be completely counterproductive. As a result, I feel very stuck with ever getting my CD money back if I wanted to. If the CDs were for just 1 or 2 years, I agree, it doesn’t matter as much. But combine a 7 year term with 4%+ interest is too painful to give up.


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?
Your articles are so in-depth and helpful, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I am a 22-yr old finishing my last semester of college, studying Computer Science and Psychology. I’m in a really good place with my finances (2k savings, no student debt, only expenses essentially rent, groceries, and utilities) and I want to get ahead financially so I can pay my parents back and save up a lot.
I have already come up with 50 ways that a management company can screw you for profit without you ever knowing(or not finding out for awhile). Did you have an inspection before you made an offer on the property? Do you have a picture of the property you bought? How do you know if that picture shows the house you actually own? or if it even hows the ‘current’ state of the house you own?
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