Thanks for asking. https://passiveincomemd.com/what-is-passive-income/ gives a good summary of the definition I use. But in brief, it’s income that isn’t proportional to the time you physically put into acquiring it. It doesn’t mean it’s not without work or effort. It’s just that most of the work is done up front and it continues to pay off long after that initial effort. Real estate fits into that box. There’s definitely a spectrum but compared to what we do as doctors, where our compensation is directly linked to our time, most of these things are quite passive.
Passive income is an incredible tool that everyone should include in their retirement plans. With traditional investing you have to rely on the stock market to increase your investments over time. The longer you have your money invested, the more your money will grow. The stock market does not produce passive income, except in the form of dividends. Most dividends are extremely small and produce small returns on investment. The bulk of stock market returns come from an increase in stock market prices. The only way to realize those increase in value is to sell stock. Retirement calculators that use the stock market as an investment plan on you running out of money when you die because you have to sell all your investments to keep bringing money in.
And while real estate is an excellent option, it does require a significant initial investment, so whether or not this passive income stream is right for you depends on your current financial situation. You might be better off starting with an investment strategy where you can build funds until you have a big enough sum to get involved in real estate.
It’s been almost 10 years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good income stream online now. Financial Samurai has given me a purpose in early retirement. And, I’m having a ton of fun running this site as well! Here’s a real snapshot of a personal finance blogger who makes $150,000+ a year from his site and another $180,000 from various consulting opportunities due to his site.
However, when you lack the money, you need time. You'll need to invest the upfront time now in order to reap the benefits of automatic income later. It just doesn't happen overnight. So don't expect it to. However, you can do this without quitting your day job. All it takes is some sincere effort over a consistent period, and voila! But, to get there, you'll need to consistently burn the midnight oil or get up at the crack of dawn. Your choice.
2. Focus on income-producing assets. Internet growth stocks may be sexy, but they provide no income. To build a large enough passive-income stream to survive, you must invest in dividend-generating stocks, certificates of deposit, municipal bonds, government Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, and real estate. You're free to invest in non-income-producing assets for capital appreciation too. You just want to earn reliable income when the day comes to leave your job.
When I purchase an existing online business, I look for cash flow over the past year and where the money comes from. I want the sources to be more passive so that it does not take a lot of my time. Also, typically I will make an offer that is 18 – 24 months of profit so that I know that I will get my money back within the next two years. I hope that helps!
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.
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?
Focus on your primary passive income stream first. It's difficult to grow your passive income into multiple streams if you don't already have one, solid stream. Focus all of your efforts on that one project first and help it grow as productive as possible. Then, you can take the money you've made and lessons you've learned from this passive income stream and put them into others.
A Risk Score of 10 means no risk. A Return Score of 1 means the returns are horrible compared to the risk-free rate. A Feasibility score of 10 means everybody can do it. A Liquidity Score of 1 means it’s very difficult to withdraw your money without a massive penalty. An Activity Score of 10 means you can kick back and do nothing to earn income. To make the ranking as realistic as possible, every score is relative to each other. Furthermore, the return criteria is based off trying to generate $10,000 a year in passive income.
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.
A good portion of my stock allocation is in growth stocks and structured notes that pay no dividends. The dividend income that comes from stocks is primarily from S&P 500 index exchange-traded funds. Although this is a passive-income report, as I'm still relatively young I'm more interested in building a large financial nut through principal appreciation rather than through dividend investing. As an entrepreneur, I can't help but have a growth mindset.
Developing passive income is different. With the exception of one of my passive income streams (cryptocurrency mining), all of the others require real, hard work. Truly, I understand the barriers for people getting into building alternative income streams. I would say that most people WANT passive income, but truly aren’t willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen.
If you love design and you are an artistic person, selling digital products on Etsy could be a great way to earn passive income. Digital products require little maintenance, your customers will simply receive a link to download them (which means you don’t have to worry about shipping and returns handling). All you need to do is spend time upfront to create beautiful artwork! (Easy right?)
There are many comments about it being impossible to break into real estate with little money, or needing help from the bank of mommy and daddy. It is possible. I bought my first property, a multifamily, 6 months after graduating college, with a garbage job I got 3 months before and barely 7k in the bank. It’s now two years later and I’ve purchased a second this summer. Regarding management, I self-manage like most ‘small time’ landlords. Unless you own a massive apartment buidling, there’s no need to professional managment. Like another comment mentioned, I’ve only ever gotten heating issues or other minor things, for which I have a handyman to take care of. Aside from that, it’s fairly passive IMO. Dividend investing doesn’t require 100k either. It’s just an example the author used. I invest un securities with dividends ranging from 2-12%, and hedge/balance according to risk. Higher dividend % isn’t always better, but there are some good deals you can find. I think the key is to realize that you don’t need to stick to just one form of passive investment. Sure, 10 properties sounds daunting, and a $1M portfolio seems impossible, but you can combine both, as well as other passive income strategies. And ofc, the more risk you are willing to take on, the higher the potential reward (and loss). I day/swing trade, but wouldn’t advise this. It’s also not passive, I spend a massive amount of time researching and analyzing the technicals, but it’s worth it for now, as I’m fairly consistnet with profits. I have not tried blogging, and am not sure I’d be any good at it. I dabbled in ecommerce but found it was too time consuimg, but I know people who were able to quit their 9-5s from ecommerce. I’m sure no matter how much debt you have (i have 30k unsecured debt) or how little you think you make, there is a way to start investing today, even if it’s starting small.
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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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.
Case Schiller only tracks price appreciation of RE. RE as rental investment vehicle is measured primarily on rental yield or cap rate or some other measure. Price appreciation in that scenario is only a secondary means of growth, and arguably should be ignored as a predictor of returns when deciding on whether or not to invest in rentals. More important key performance indicators for rentals are net operating income and cash ROI. Appreciation, if it occurs, is a bonus.
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.

So many great tips in this big post, thanks! I think it’s so true that people should focus on the things they do well at and are interested in. And yes save, save, save in the beginning and throughout. I have several interest and dividend earning investments and am looking to expand further. Diversification is a great goal for all of us so we can avoid having all our eggs in one basket.


Do you think it’s possible to build a blog from scratch, outsourcing the work from day one (assuming I have some cash that can cover the initial expenses until the blog generates enough income to at least break even)? In other words, do you think you could you have spent your $500 max per month for the writer, social media expert, etc to build your blog to the point it’s earning the same amount of money it does now?
Similiar to Adsense, Media.net powers the Yahoo! Bing Network Contextual Ads and is probably the second largest contextual advertising company in the world. I've been running some Media.net ads for a few months and the income was very similiar to adsense. Bear in mind that their approval process is a bit more extensive than Google AdSense. -One has to get a certain number of page views monthly to get an account with them.
Crowdfunded real estate companies like Fundrise are similar to today’s peer-to-peer lending companies. Like Lending Club and Prosper, they offer a platform that matches real estate investors with investment choices. They help people looking to invest money in real estate in a passive manner. Also, investors can avoid bargaining with sellers. No need to get involved in the transfer of ownership and management of those properties either.
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.

As we’ll discuss, passive income opportunities are usually limited-time only, and honestly, over half of what you try won’t work. Diversification is your friend. Having many sources of income — at least 7 including your “day job” — is an important hedging strategy. Personally, I have been working at it for a long time, and I’ve had many failures in trying to build my portfolio. I’ve done a few apps for BlackBerry (come on, it was 2009), contemplated writing a book, started a bunch of blogs and forums, and joined countless affiliate programs. Here are the ones that are currently working right now.

Amazing that you saved between 50% to 75% living in NYC…I think that is one thing holding me back…the cost of living here. I’d like to invest in real estate, but I can barely afford to buy a place to live. I don’t need a large income to be happy, but I probably do need an income to support living in NYC as we don’t plan on leaving. The only thing I’m doing at the moment is saving in my 401K, IRA and a I dabble in stocks and P2P lending.


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. Physical 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.

I also noticed that in your passive income chart at the bottom that you don’t include your internet income other than sales from your book. Is there a reason for that? Do you not consider is passive because you are actively blogging all the time to create it? Or do you just not want readers to know how much money you generate from blogging activities?


As I’ve thought more deeply about how to answer this question over the years, I’ve come to a realization that the problem is not the answer, but the question itself. For those who’ve asked it, I don’t think it’s always coming from a place of “quick money.” If we reframe the question, I think there’s room to empower and actually help those who’ve asked it—to give them a foundational understanding of what it really means to generate an income online.
5. Make sure you are properly diversified. Capital preservation is underrated. We saw a lost decade for tech stocks between 2000 and 2010 after the first dot-com bubble burst. It actually took 13 years for Nasdaq investors to get back to even. Investors in the Borsa Istanbul stock market index just gave up 10 years' worth of gains after they saw a plunge in their currency, partially due to increased tariffs by the US and a lack of confidence in the government. Your passive income needs to be properly diversified in order to take the hits.
We are going to start with 1.5 years of all spending needs in cash. We will draw 1800 to 1900 per month. We will add to this from the index funds by taking a portion of the gains in good years to supplement. This is the total return portion of the equation. Obviously, if stocks decrease drastically over a 5 year period, then I would have to reload by selling some of the ETF holdings.
One of the great things about generating passive income via rental properties is the ability to buy properties throughout the country instead of just in your generally locality. Because you will hire others to manage, maintain, and repair the property, you don’t have to be in the same location and can maintain passive ownership from virtually anywhere. That gives you the ability to better choose rental markets where you stand the best chance of profiting the most due to lower local and state property and business taxes.
Those who choose to focus on passive income will need either family money, funds from investors, or the nerve to borrow large sums by taking on debt to fund the purchase of assets. Consider someone who takes out substantial bank loans to build an apartment building or buy rental houses. Although this can turn a very small amount of equity into a large cash flow stream, it is not without risk. When using borrowed money, the margin of safety is much smaller because you can’t absorb the same degree of setback before defaulting and finding you balance sheet obliterated.
We are going to start with 1.5 years of all spending needs in cash. We will draw 1800 to 1900 per month. We will add to this from the index funds by taking a portion of the gains in good years to supplement. This is the total return portion of the equation. Obviously, if stocks decrease drastically over a 5 year period, then I would have to reload by selling some of the ETF holdings.
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).
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.
The doctor or lawyer, for instance, could use her or his income to invest in a medical start-up or buy shares of medical companies he understands such as Johnson & Johnson. Over time, the nature of compounding, dollar cost averaging, and reinvesting dividends can result in her or his portfolio generating substantial passive income. The downside is that it can take decades to achieve enough to truly improve your standard of living. However, it is still the surest path to wealth based on the historical performance of business ownership and stocks.
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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!
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 expensive cities like San Francisco and New York City, net rental yields can fall as low as 2%. This is a sign that there is a lot of liquidity buying property for property appreciation, and not so much for income generation. This is a riskier proposition than buying property based on rental income. In inexpensive cities, such as those in the Midwest, net rental yields can easily be in the range of 8% – 12%, although appreciation may be slower.
Real Estate: I currently own one rental property in San Francisco which I bought in 2003 (2/2 condo), one vacation rental in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe (2/2 condo), and my primary residence. Real estate is my favorite asset class to build wealth because it is easy to understand, tangible, provides utility, and rides the way of inflation. I recommend individuals try and get neutral inflation by buying their primary residence as young as possible. The power of inflation is just too hard to counteract.
Agreed but I might consider a blended portfolio of large and small cap stocks using low cost mutual funds (I found a fidelity large cap fund FUSVX with a net expense of .035% that has also delivered 17%+ YTD gains, some are dividend some are growth stock in the fund) UNLESS you’re close to retirement. This way you get the growth upside on small cap paired with the stablilty of some large cap stocks while maintaining balanced ricks.
The Lake Tahoe property continues to be 100% managed by a property-management company. It feels amazing not to have to do anything. I can't wait to bring up my boy this coming winter to play in the snow! I could go up this winter, but I want him to be able to walk and run comfortably before he goes. I've been dreaming of this moment for over 10 years now. The income from the property is highly dependent on how much it snows. Summer income is always very strong.
I live in NYC where I never thought buying rental property would be possible, but am looking into buying rental property in the Midwest where it cash flows and have someone manage it for me (turnkey real estate investing I guess some would call it). I agree with what Mike said about leverage and tax advantages, but I’m still a newbie to real estate investing so I can’t so how it will go. I have a very small amount in P2P…I’m at around 6.3% It’s okay but I don’t know how liquid it is and it still is relatively new…I’d prefer investing in the stock market.
If you love design and you are an artistic person, selling digital products on Etsy could be a great way to earn passive income. Digital products require little maintenance, your customers will simply receive a link to download them (which means you don’t have to worry about shipping and returns handling). All you need to do is spend time upfront to create beautiful artwork! (Easy right?)
However, you should pick a niche and blog about that. If you're launching a money related blog, maybe it'll be about how to make money in real estate or simply how to make money online. Pick the niche and stick to it. If it's a diet and fitness related blog, maybe the niche is the Ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet or some other form of diet or fitness.
If you love design and you are an artistic person, selling digital products on Etsy could be a great way to earn passive income. Digital products require little maintenance, your customers will simply receive a link to download them (which means you don’t have to worry about shipping and returns handling). All you need to do is spend time upfront to create beautiful artwork! (Easy right?)
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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