Betterment – Betterment was the first robo-advisor to launch, almost ten years ago. They’ve automated the entire investing process, so all you have to do is watch your portfolio of assets grow (over the long run, of course). They do charge a .25% annual fee of your account total, so if you’ve got $100,000 that’s being managed by Betterment, you’ll pay just over $20 per month.
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.
Affiliate marketing is a simple way to earn a bit of extra money from your personal website or blog. In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is simply including special links to some products or services on your website and in your content. When your readers click those links and make a purchase, you earn a fixed percentage commission from that sale. Most publishers sign up with affiliate networks that connect them with brands seeking for an affiliate. The same networks will also monitor your commissions and schedule your payouts.
I make a little bit of money off of referring people to services I truly believe in. I never recommend things I don’t personally use, but if I’m going to refer friends to Shopify, products on Amazon, or Udemy courses besides my own, I have no shame making a couple bucks off it. In most cases, these referral sales come from older links within my podcasts or courses, and therefore, are completely passive. 

Some people take it automated well before the year is up. When it converts, it converts. If you target the right people and you're able to create the right message that appeals to your audience, you might just hit a home run. An automated webinar often involves the creation of a webinar funnel. That includes, not only the webinar, but also the email sequences, and possibly a self-liquidating offer, and maybe some done-for-your services and up-sells.
Selling T-shirts and other apparel is a pretty saturated market but the tools to do it are easy to use, which makes it very quick and cheap to get going. If you’re creative enough, or tap into the zeitgeist properly, you can also have a runaway hit. Even if your first 19 T-shirts don’t sell more than a few copies, your 20th might make up for everything.
3) Create A Plan. Mark Spitz once said, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” You must create a system where you are saving X amount of money every month, investing Y amount every month, and working on Z project until completion. Things will be slow going at first, but once you save a little bit of money you will start to build momentum. Eventually you will find synergies between your work, your hobbies, and your skills which will translate into viable income streams.
If you are not able to get a mortgage on the property, there are still a few options available though rates can be fairly high. You might try approaching the seller for owner financing where they sell the property to you on monthly installments. This might not be possible if there’s a mortgage on the property since many carry a “due on sale” clause. If you do go this route, make absolutely sure you get a notarized contract with all the details. 

If you need cash flow, and the dividend doesn’t meet your needs, sell a little appreciated stock. (or keep a CD ladder rolling and leave your stock alone). At the risk of repeating myself, whether you take cash out of your portfolio in the form of “rent”, dividend, interest, cap gain, laddered CD…., etc. The arithmetic doesn’t change. You are still taking cash out of your portfolio. I’m just pointing out that we shouldn’t let the tail wag the dog. IOW, the primary goal is to grow the long term value of your portfolio, after tax. Period. All other goals are secondary.
This company mainly focuses online business and internet marketing products, but there are also other products ranging from health and fitness to travel. One of the great things about DigiResults is that both vendors and affiliates get paid at the point of sale, and not a month or two later like most affiliate marketplaces. I’ve been using their system and so far it’s one of my favorites.
This is such a fabulous piece. Thank you for your amazing efforts here. I was wondering -any initial thoughts on what one would charge an employer to post a job (for the idea about creating a site to help people with their resumes, etc)? I need to research for sure but was curious if anyone has any ideas on this. I have a background in the corporate world in management and recruiting and have been tossing this idea around for a while but am stuck. Thank you!
Hello from the UK! Fundrise and Wealthfront are only available to US residents it seems :(. Any other readers from the UK here? The only thing I have managed to do from Sam’s list is getting a fixed rate bond (CBS is having a 5-year fixed rate at 2.01% – not great but the best I could find ). Don’t know if the FIRE movement will ever take off here but would love to trade tips/ideas on how to reach FI and have the freedom to consider alternative rythms to living.
Leveraging the internet to create, connect, and sell is something every creative person should attempt to do. The only risk is lost time and a wounded ego. You can start a site like mine for as little as $2.95 a month with Bluehost and go from there. They give you a free domain name for a year. Forget all the add-ons. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for my site.
At some point in every value chain, value has to be created by a real human. No argument there. However, who says that a human has to deliver that value? Some very smart humans put in the work to create Google, but for the most part, they don’t have to do any work to deliver value to you, whether it’s search results or GMail or Maps. Your landlord put in a lot of work to afford the apartment you live in, to remodel it, and even to find you as a tenant. But now, he doesn’t have to do any work to deliver value to you: you wake up every morning in the apartment whether or not he works.
I don’t really know much about those…I should take a look from a diversification standpoint. If you don’t mind me asking, what do you target for your net effective tax rate on your passive income? Also, I’m sure you’ve probably covered this somewhere, but how do you deal with healthcare? One more dumb question…have you found that you spend more or less money than you anticipated once you retired?
Unless you live nearby and genuinely enjoy doing maintenance work, you will probably want to hire a property manager to oversee your investment. Do some research on any potential management company. You should look at the number and type of properties the company manages, as well as how many properties each individual manager handles. If this last figure is higher than 250, it’s likely your property may not get enough attention.
We pitched to an angel investor group. They were very excited about the idea but wanted to know who amongst us (doctor, accountant, salesman) was doing the coding. When they heard we were outsourcing it, the wind went out of their sails immediately. They did want to meet with us again once we brought a coder on board but that person proved elusive to find. Coders in our area are looking for the steady paycheck, not willing to gamble on a startup.
Although YouTube has been around for years, it is gaining in popularity as more people “cut the cord” on their cable TV service. There are plenty of people who are polished and have production quality that rivals many of the movies or TV shows that I watch. However, the vast majority are people just like you and me. Don’t be shy. Trust me, no matter what kind of content you publish, there are people way worse. And you will get better, just give it time.
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.
Like I mentioned earlier, coming in late in the game can be an advantage if you listen, learn and provide solutions for what seems to be missing. Even coming into a market with a minimal viable product, you’ll have the advantage of being able to get deep into the customer experience to shape your product or service to what it should be, again, all based on what you’re able to measure and learn.
That strategy seems waaaayyyy less risky than actively picking stocks of supposedly “reliable” stocks that issue dividends, which could be cut at any time due to shifting industry trends and company performance. Dividend investing feels like an overly complex old-school way of investing that doesn’t have a very strong intellectual basis compared to index investing.
However, if I sorted through the data, grouped it into specific subjects, created a simple website, did the Internet marketing necessary to bring the website to the attention of other newbies and sold the re-packaged data (which would now be my own product because I’ve applied process to it), I could save other people from such overwhelm AND make some income for my impoverished self.
Brian had found a huge need for web design in the restaurant and food truck space. After getting tired of working with client after client, he decided to turn his service-based business into a product-based one. He made his services more standardized and productized. He eliminated all his client work and created templates and products to serve that market instead. And it’s been going great for him.
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.
Ever find yourself humming a tune, or laying down tracks for yourself or friends? Your next catchy phrase might fetch you a solid passive income stream. On sites like ProductionTrax and Audio Network, musicians can license their compositions for background music in apps, commercials, and websites to earn more money. Read more about this strategy at The Guardian.
The organizing principle behind this grouping, appropriate economic units, is relatively simple: if the activities are located in the same geographic area; if the activities have similarities in the types of business; or if the activities are somehow interdependent, for instance, if they have the same customers, employees or use a single set of books for accounting.
Thanks for the info…I kind of figured it is really not that expensive to live if you are not an extravagant person. I could definitely figure out how to funnel expenses through a part time business…I think I keep thinking along the lines that I’m going to be paying the same tax rate after retirement, but reality is you could get pretty lean and mean if one focused on it. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being utter panic mode, how worried are you about your “pile” lasting through a 50 year retirement now that you are a couple years into it? https://www.biznews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/passive_income.jpg

In February 2007, Pat Flynn was working at an architecture firm making $38,000 a year. He mulled boosting his earning power by getting an architecture license, but the process would likely take six to eight years. When he heard about getting a credential in sustainable design and environmentally friendly building called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), he decided to go for that, as no one in his department had it. The one problem? The exam was so challenging, just one-third of test-takers passed.


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.
"What makes business work is creating value. If you're going into the business with the intention of not creating value, but of having it magically provide money for you, then you often make really bad choices. The business that you're investing in or creating doesn't tend to be creating value for its customers or for anyone. So it doesn't tend to spit off the cash you're hoping it will. So many times I've seen people pursue passive income, and end up having active losses instead. They just spend a lot of time and money trying to push responsibilities off on other people and having it not work."
I read about early withdrawal penalties on IRAs/401Ks very often. Almost always with a statement of “locked up” or “can’t touch” until 59.5. I’m sure you and well informed readers as well know about SEPPs in regard to IRAs/401Ks. For those that don’t SEPPs aren’t perfect but they are a way to tap retirement funds penalty free and I will be using in the future as I have over half of my equity investments within retirement accounts. South of a mil, North of a half. Let me add that I think your blog is outstanding.

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.


If you need cash flow, and the dividend doesn’t meet your needs, sell a little appreciated stock. (or keep a CD ladder rolling and leave your stock alone). At the risk of repeating myself, whether you take cash out of your portfolio in the form of “rent”, dividend, interest, cap gain, laddered CD…., etc. The arithmetic doesn’t change. You are still taking cash out of your portfolio. I’m just pointing out that we shouldn’t let the tail wag the dog. IOW, the primary goal is to grow the long term value of your portfolio, after tax. Period. All other goals are secondary.
It is so much better to let your property sit vacant for an extra month or two than to rush into an agreement with a bad tenant. You will be tempted to just go with your gut and not check out applicant tenants – fight the temptation if you want to keep your sanity! A bad tenant will trash your property and cost you thousands in missed rent and eviction costs.
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!
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.
Not all properties are equal when it comes to cash flow. When you run the numbers on your expenses, expected income, and profits for a property in a less well-kept neighborhood, your return looks good. However, as with any investment, your high return comes with increased risk. On the other hand, a property in a superior area with good public schools is less risky and will offer higher appreciation over time even if your monthly profits are smaller.
In June, he put ads on his site with Google Adsense, and within the first hour, earned $1.08 with three clicks. He earned $5 the first day, $7 the second, and then eventually began pulling in $15-$30 a day. In October, he created an ebook exam study guide priced at $19.99. By month’s end, he earned $7,906.55 — more than he had ever previously earned in a month.
Some people take it automated well before the year is up. When it converts, it converts. If you target the right people and you're able to create the right message that appeals to your audience, you might just hit a home run. An automated webinar often involves the creation of a webinar funnel. That includes, not only the webinar, but also the email sequences, and possibly a self-liquidating offer, and maybe some done-for-your services and up-sells.

I have only dabbled in drop-shipping before when I had an eCommerce platform 6 years ago or so. I think it is something that you could do on the side, but you would want to do in depth research on the industry you want to get into before setting up shop. It may be a little less passive up front, but over time you could take your hands off the wheel.
If you need cash flow, and the dividend doesn’t meet your needs, sell a little appreciated stock. (or keep a CD ladder rolling and leave your stock alone). At the risk of repeating myself, whether you take cash out of your portfolio in the form of “rent”, dividend, interest, cap gain, laddered CD…., etc. The arithmetic doesn’t change. You are still taking cash out of your portfolio. I’m just pointing out that we shouldn’t let the tail wag the dog. IOW, the primary goal is to grow the long term value of your portfolio, after tax. Period. All other goals are secondary.
However, until we get another reset in valuations (I’m calculating a 40% to 50% correction is justified ), I’ve moved largely to the sidelines. Beginning in July 2013, I began slowly reducing equity exposure and am now sitting firm at 40% with the balance in various forms of 5 yr cd’s and short duration bonds. This is down from over 60% when I ramped up to take advantage of the March 2009 lows.
I actually spent a year and a half working as an affiliate marketer (mostly selling drumming related products – lessons, kits ect). 5 years on and one of my one page sites (which I’ve not touched) still nets me about $150 a month. I won’t be retiring off that but only really now appreciate the reverse pyramid approach to entrepreneurship (working for nothing initially but later being paid without effort!)

Now, how do you do it? Building a passive income will require some work up front, but choosing a method that plays to your strengths will yield the most success, and it can even become a fun hobby! Have an aptitude for photography? License your photos to stock photography websites. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to invest? Learn how with a robo-advisor. No matter what your strengths are, we’ve gathered 35 ideas for different ways you can generate passive income and build your wealth.

If you’ve got a book you’re itching to write, you can still go with the traditional publishing route. (We published our first book using a traditional publisher.) Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, a publisher can help get your book into print and onto shelves in both online and traditional book stores. This is still a good route, although it may take more work and be more expensive than some other options.


However, until we get another reset in valuations (I’m calculating a 40% to 50% correction is justified ), I’ve moved largely to the sidelines. Beginning in July 2013, I began slowly reducing equity exposure and am now sitting firm at 40% with the balance in various forms of 5 yr cd’s and short duration bonds. This is down from over 60% when I ramped up to take advantage of the March 2009 lows.
The terms on private money loans can also vary from very short (a couple of months or even weeks) to years. Once the money is loaned to an investor the passive income will come in as long as the investor can meet their obligations. The work with private money lending comes in the beginning when choosing a private money lender and if the loan ever goes into default.

The “Fulfilled by Amazon” program is another really popular passive income idea that’s being promoted a lot in 2017. Basically, you create a physical product (or buy one in bulk from China) and have it shipped directly to Amazon. Amazon then lists it on their website, sell it and deliver it. They obviously take a decent cut but they’re doing most of the intensive work.
Invest in a business as a silent partner. A silent partner is an inactive investor in a business. That is, they contribute capital to start the business, but don't actually make any business decisions and leave the management of the business up to the active partners. In turn, they receive a portion of the business's profits. In this way, you have the potential to earn regular, sizable payouts from simply making an initial investment.
That means you visit properties, review their tax histories, ensure the local market is robust and has sound long-term potential and the local rental market is one that is favorable to landlords and property owners. If you have to compete to fill your units and pay high taxes in areas where potential rental income in limited, you made a bad business decision and will have trouble generating passive income from your real estate investment. But so long as the property and market are good, you can make money.

You are also free to choose a fund that is based on any index that you want. For example, there are index funds set up for just about every market sector there is — energy, precious metals, banking, emerging markets — you name it. All you have to do is decide that you want to participate, then contribute money and sit back and relax. Your stock portfolio will then be on automatic pilot.
In the real estate market, the one of best ways to generate passive income is by investing in turnkey rental properties that are ready to rent with and are managed by property management companies. In theory, the process is relatively simple. You either research properties or have people you trust do it, find ones that are in good condition and preferably in good areas, pay a reputable contractor to perform any repairs and ensure the property is in its best possible condition, and then hire a trusted property management company to handle the administrative tasks, including collecting rent, documenting and paying for maintenance and repairs, and sending money to you.
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.
I have six rental units which are a good source of passive income. I don’t use a property manager because you are right…they take about 10% of your rent. There are really only 2 things that tenants call about: 1. A plumbing issue 2. Heat/Air problems. Just find a plumber and heat/air guy you can trust. I travel a lot for my primary job. When a call comes in from a tenant, I can call the repair guy in just as easy as a property manager.
However, this comes back to the old discussion of pain versus pleasure. We will always do more to avoid pain than we will to gain pleasure. When our backs are against the wall, we act. When they're not, we relax. The truth is that the pain-versus-pleasure paradigm only operates in the short term. We'll only avoid pain in the here and now. Often not in the long term.
Get paid to take surveys at home by signing up with one or more survey websites. All you do is answer questions and voilà, you get paid. Another way to earn extra income is to participate in focus groups. Companies hire focus groups as a way to test out a new product before it hits the market. Why? Because they need to make sure it will make money; they want a high return on their investment. Surveys and focus groups may not make you a millionaire overnight, but you can earn hundreds of dollars each month by giving your opinion on products and services.

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.
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).

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!
Do you want to rent commercial or residential properties? I started my professional career as a commercial RE agent before starting residential investing. Buying and renting out commercial space like office, industrial and retail will generally yield a lower return but will also involve far fewer headaches. The drawback to commercial space is that it costs much more to buy one property.

Another benefit of investing in rental properties is the loan pay down. If you obtain a loan to buy the property, each month your tenants are paying off part of the loan. Once the mortgage on the property has been paid off, your cash flow will increase dramatically, allowing your mediocre investment to skyrocket into a full-fledged retirement program.

It’s a (mostly) short term, higher risk, higher reward place to invest cash that has a low correlation with the stock market, but is far more passive than buying and managing properties, has more opportunity for diversification than private placements (minimums of 5-10K, rather than 100K), and most of the equity offerings (and all of the debt offerings) provide monthly or quarterly incomes. Unlike a REIT, you can choose exactly which projects you wish to invest in.

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.

I make a little bit of money off of referring people to services I truly believe in. I never recommend things I don’t personally use, but if I’m going to refer friends to Shopify, products on Amazon, or Udemy courses besides my own, I have no shame making a couple bucks off it. In most cases, these referral sales come from older links within my podcasts or courses, and therefore, are completely passive.
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