According to Uncle Sam, you need to be "materially involved" in an enterprise to earn active income. With passive income, it's just the opposite, as the IRS deems you to be earning passive income if you're not materially involved with a profit-making enterprise. By and large, expect income to be taxable if you are engaged in a passive income enterprise. You will need to report earnings to the IRS.
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.
Returns on real estate investing vary and you don’t want to get into the business based on an estimated return but on your own calculation of what is possible for your local market and for specific properties. I have seen pretty common averages between 8% and 12% a year for single-family residential rentals with cash flow accounting for between 0% and 6% of the return.

If you're an expert in your field, you can generate income by answering people’s questions online. Just Answer.com, for instance, allows you to join their team of experts and serve a customer base of more than 20 million people. If you’re a travel expert, check out flightfox.com. They have great reviews and positive commentary pretty much everywhere.


Love your articles. I think everyone is very different as far as how much passive income they need to meet their goals. I’ve read a lot of your articles and really enjoy your thoughts. I have a masters in finance and understand the math of keeping the debt but my emotions are such that I need to try to finish off paying off my last debt (mortgage) in the next two years. At 34 and only worth 525k I’m doing better than a lot of folks my age but it will be difficult for me to catch up in the passive income game without leverage. That is the main reason I recently created a website to try to bring passive income opportunities in my area to me.
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!
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.
I’m somewhat embarassingly reminded of Harry Potter and the concept of “Horcruxes” here, in that the goal is to find a piece of your value, and impart it into an inanimate object or product, Voldemort Style (did I really just make a Harry Potter reference?) Anyways, whatever. If you want passive income, you have to think about the value you rent out or own. Or, you need to buy something valuable that other people would like to use (I love the idea of a 3D Printer). Then put it into something that can be sold or rented more passively. Maybe you have a car that sits in the driveway, or a vacation home that is empty half the time. Maybe you just have some funny jokes you could put into a YouTube video and run ads on. At some point, you have to “transfer” the value into something that can work for you — that something is an asset.
At age 55, I own high-end rental properties (near the beach) and commercial buildings servicing the medical industry. I was widely criticized during my career for not living up to my income; that is, buying big homes with many fancy cars. I married a great woman who understood that saving and investing today meant a better lifestyle and more freedom tomorrow. Our passive income is half of my active income from sales, but my net worth has increased substantially. We are both happier and healthier than we were in the high-stress pressure cooker of franchise sales. The naysayers have become converts to the concept of passive income, but they have locked themselves into a “big hat, no cattle” lifestyle. It has been a great ride!
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.
So how do you get started with the EP Model? First, you need to be an expert in the eyes of those you’re looking to serve. And again, you don’t need all those qualifications and credentials. A lot of people gain expertise and credibility just by sharing their experience learning something, which is something I’ve done on SPI.com. If you think about it, many people in the personal finance or fitness space establish their authority by sharing their journey and their process. They do it by sharing their experiences—and you can do the same thing, too.

I’ve been researching a path to financial independence, and the wealth of knowledge here is amazing, but at times overwhelming. I’m honestly not quite sure where to start. Whether it be paying off debt (which I’ve always heard is priority 1), or sinking money into realtyshares or CDs for growth. I’d love to generate a passive income (in a few years time) to supplement some of my day job to have time to spend with my little one during her golden childhood years, but not sure if there’s even a right order to go about it.
* 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.
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!
If you are a photographer looking to diversify your income stream, putting together styled stock photo packages can be lucrative. For example, a package of 15 wedding-themed stock photos for $10. You can then market this to any bloggers or businesses who are in the wedding business for their use (photos of different engagement rings styles are super popular). Through this method, it’s possible to make a continuous stream of income off of photos you’ve taken once (similar to a licensing deal).
That’s confusing, so let’s take a simple example. I create a free newspaper, and give away the value (information, entertainment) to people at no charge. By doing so, I’ve created a powerful form of secondary value: the attention of my readers. I then rent this value out to advertisers, who consume it regularly. If an advertiser leaves and I find a new one, the fact that the other advertiser consumed value before is of little or no concern to the new consumer.

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.

That’s why I sometimes hesitate to even say I participate in affiliate marketing. But that’s not how I, or you, should approach it. I’m here to lead the change and show people there is so much opportunity out there in affiliate marketing the right way (and the smart way). It’s insane to me that more people aren’t really realizing their full potential with this.
I have not. While I am intrigued with the possibility of making online income, it seems to be less passive then how I want to spend my time. Regarding your blog / site, you have done quite well for yourself. However, you have to keep pumping out content or your site would eventually go out of business. That sounds like more of a commitment then I would want. Regarding your book sales, it is probably relatively passive now, but certainly was not when you were writing the book. Now if you love it, great. Just not for me.
When money is lent to a partnership or S-corporation acting as a pass-through entity (essentially a business that is designed to reduce the effects of double taxation) by that entity’s owner, the interest income on that loan to the portfolio income can qualify as passive income. As the IRS language reads: "Certain self-charged interest income or deductions may be treated as passive activity gross income or passive activity deductions if the loan proceeds are used in a passive activity."
I invest about 5% of my pre tax income in 401k that my employer matches. Have close to 70k in cash in checking. Also,I liquidated around 40k in my 401k and not sure where to invest that in (bonds vs stocks) because of stocks trading at record high. Have a rental property that is paying itself now and I will pay off the mortgage completely in 5 years. My immediate concern is the cash in checking acct that’s not doing much. Thanks for your reply and appreciate your work. I am learning a lot
Immediately after I graduated from business school, a lot of people began asking me what I would do, or if I’d found a job. The answer was almost always “working a few hours a week on some side projects until re-launching my startup.” Whereas this may sound like an unfortunate or undesirable outcome, really was not so bad… My gross income then — without really “working” on anything — was higher than it was when I was working 80 hour weeks running a $3M/year eCommerce company. Sure, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was all part of a strategy that would eventually lead me towards “accidentally” building a 7-figure media business that runs whether or not I show up to work this month. Let me explain…
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.
Courses are similar to guides but they’re easier to produce for some subjects, especially tech subjects. If you’ve got a computer, a decent microphone and some screen recording software, it’s pretty easy to create high quality courses. You can sell your course through your own site or you can use a marketplace like Udemy to do all the heavy lifting. 
No one should turn down wind farming’s ultimate passive income for the next 30 or more years … even 60 years when there is a positive cash flow on the sum total of all base payments when computing inflation for the next 60 years based on the previous 60 years, as long as the next era’s energy resource is not perfected (at which time they would not renew the option for the second 30 years).
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.

A perfect example of the Active Problem Solving + Automation concept is in my online courses I’ve created over the years, or my free webinars I’ve created more recently Each of my online courses and webinars are targeted to help people with specific problems, whether that’s in the area of affiliate marketing, podcasting, building a brand, and so forth. I am always improving upon the courses, but they are also evergreen for my audience.
Though it can take a while to build up enough cash to put a 20% down payment on an investment property (the typical lender minimum), they can snowball fairly quickly. The key here is to correctly project income and expenses in order to calculate cash flow (the free cash you can put in your pocket after all associated property expenses have been paid). However you have to be sure to include the cost of a property manager in your calculations unless you want to manage the property yourself. Even with a property manager, you may be required to make large repair decisions every now and then – so while this is not a 100% passive activity, you are not directly trading your time for money like traditional employment.
It’s obvious that stocks outperform real estate in terms of capital gains, but I would like to see S&P compare to Real Estate in SF, Manhattan, LA. Our house in NC was $80,000 20 years ago. It’s only $150,000 now. Same house in Santa Monica went from $200,000 to $1.8 million. People who happen to bought real estate in major metropolitan would have a natural positive association with real estate investment.

As a private lender, you can lend to anyone in your social circle. For example, many home rehabbers need access to a source of capital they can tap into very quickly in order to fund the initial purchase of their properties. You can partner with a rehabber who uses your capital for a short-term in exchange for an interest rate that is mutually agreed upon.
The term “selling” probably doesn’t need much explanation, but it’s where value is transfered one time in exchange for money. Heart surgery, baguettes, and designer jeans are all ways to sell value. This one would probably the least optimal of all, at least for passive income, if it weren’t for an exception. This is because once you sell a normal commodity or service, you can’t re-sell it. Here’s the exception to this: software or digital goods can be duplicated with a very low marginal cost(now that we don’t use CDs, you can duplicate it with a cost of $0.00), and therefore, technically can be “sold” advantageously over and over and over again. This is why Microsoft grew to such a profitable company, and why I love selling digital goods.
Yet none of these people I've talked to who have this temporarily successful lifestyle seem very happy. They actually seem kind of restless and lost. I've had conversations with several of them to help them determine "what the purpose of their life is" now that they have some amount of money coming in from some little passive venture they don't even care about that much. It all feels empty to them.
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).
Airbnb is a concept that has only been around for a few years, but it has exploded around the globe. Airbnb allows people to travel all around the world and to stay in accommodations that are a lot less expensive than traditional hotels. They do this by staying with participating Airbnb members who rent out part of their homes to travelers. By participating in Airbnb, you can use your residence to accommodate guests and earn extra money just for renting out space in your home.
I watched an episode of Shark Tank once where I was introduced to Major Robert Dyer. Major Dyer was pitching a new energy drink called The Ruck Pack Energy Drink. It’s not like the world needs another energy drink, but he was able to convince both Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjevic, two of the investors on the show, to give him $150k in exchange for 20 percent of the company.
I’m hoping to have about 10g saved by this time next year, which I know is nothing huge but seeing as I’m at 2.5g right now and owned 3 dollars to my name on Aug.9 I’m pretty happy with my progress :). But at my age, without a stable career, while working part time and having to go to school full time, what is a realistic path I could pursue to create passive income online, or even income that requires effort such as writing, but one that is more flexible than working in a stationary low-paid position for 10 dollars an hour? I need to work for now to show taxable income for the government to get my residency, but after that I know my time could be better served than earning 8 dollars an hour, I’m just not sure where to go from here. I considered flipping domain names, or penny stocks, or sports gambling, but again that’s not passive income and in reality they are more or less just forms of me gambling.
Remember, the skills you have are an asset, they are your “unfair advantage.” They are essential to your unique personal brand, and you can start making money online using those skills if you have the right strategy, tactics, and mindset in place. Another way to describe this is your “unfair advantage,” a term I was first introduced to by Lain Ehmann in SPI Podcast Session #37.
It was easier recouping the lost $60,000 in rental-property income than I expected. For so long, my primary mindset for passive income was rental income. Having $815,000 less mortgage debt but still generating roughly the same amount of passive income with a much larger cash balance feels great. Further, my passive-income portfolio got even more passive, which is good as a stay-at-home dad to a newborn.

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).
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.
Can you expound on the use of publicly-traded REITs as a passive income source? I’m 31 years old. No children. No wife. No dependents. (I am the closest thing to Ebenezer Scrooge you’ll ever see). My monthly expenses amount to less than $2,000 per month (most of which go to pay student loans) . I have a decent job making over $55K per year. I also have a $60K inheritance coming my way in a few weeks. I am absolutely crazy about achieving absolute financial independence, which for me would require a passive income of over $2000/month to cover my living expenses. I could achieve that in a mere couple of years if I were to save excessively and dump my savings (and inheritance) into a Mortgage REIT via the stock market, most of which are shelling out above 10% returns in dividend payments. Is this a good strategy for me? Or am I being too hasty and assuming too much risk?
Logan is a CPA with a Masters Degree in Taxation from the University of Southern California. He has been featured in publications such as Debt.com. He has nearly 10 years of public accounting experience, including 5 with professional services firm Ernst & Young where he consulted with multinational companies and high net worth individuals on their tax situations. He launched Money Done Right in 2017 to communicate modern ideas on earning, saving, and investing money.
It was easier recouping the lost $60,000 in rental-property income than I expected. For so long, my primary mindset for passive income was rental income. Having $815,000 less mortgage debt but still generating roughly the same amount of passive income with a much larger cash balance feels great. Further, my passive-income portfolio got even more passive, which is good as a stay-at-home dad to a newborn. 
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