I’ve never invested in real estate (except to live in), but am always intrigued by communities like FS who seem to have such a passion for it. My intrigue stems back to my earlier comments that the long term trends in appreciation in real estate are simply not very competitive versus equities, despite what Robert Kiyosaki had to say in his book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
Whether you take a “distribution” (aka free-cash-flow) in the form of a dividend, interest payment, capital gain, maturing ladder of a CD, etc, you are still taking the same amount of cash out of your portfolio. Don’t fall for the trap of sub optimizing your overall portfolio’s performance because your chasing some unimportant trait called “income”.
Although it is passive income, I love helping people and find that I actually put in quite a few hours per day creating new products, talking to customers, or getting my name out there. I think you have to have this passion, and you need to keep working for your own sanity, plus to keep you ahead of the competition. Even though it is called passive income, if you lie still for too long, you could start to see your business declining.
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?

Rentals, just like stocks, throw off cash. With rentals we call that cash “rent”, and with stocks we call it dividends. A significant difference however is that the S&P 500 has appreciated at ~6% per year (above inflation) for the last 100 years…..Real Estate has had almost 0 growth above inflation. So are rents higher than dividends? Maybe, maybe not. But unless you got one heck of a deal, the delta in rent over dividends will have a very tough time making up for the 6% per year difference in appreciation.


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
Money from dividends, for example, are taxed at a lower rate than money from a job. A business owner who works in the company she or he founded would have to pay more self-employment payroll taxes compared to someone who merely had a passive interest in the same limited liability company who would pay only income taxes. In other words, the same income earned actively would be taxed at a higher rate than if it were earned passively.
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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).
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.

So many readers have asked me “How do you invest your money?”.  And so I’ve shared my thoughts on building a smartly diversified portfolio for long term returns.  Of course, this is great when you have a large capital base and 30-40 year time horizon.  For example if you are compounding at just 5-10% but doing it over 40 years and from a large starting base, plus you are topping it up monthly with new funds, you can enjoy ridiculous returns.
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?
Investing in bonds: Similarly, bonds are an attractive way to engage in passive income. Over a recent 45-year period, bonds funds, as measured by Vanguard Funds, returned 7.1%. Of course, there's no guarantee that investments in stocks or bonds will always work out well, investing in them is by far the surest way to generate money through passive income.

I had to get out. I actually had this random Facebook ad come up in my news feed (go figure) and it eventually led me to a webinar that taught on how to start an email marketing business (which is, by the way, the most profitable form of affiliate marketing – or ANY marketing for that matter). I listened through the whole 2 hours, completely mesmerized. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to be focusing on to help my family out of the pit of debt we were in and into a world free of financial stress. I didn’t know if it would actually work, but eventually it lead to EXCESS income!
Control: With the stock market, you are at the mercy of the fund and management. With private lending, you control who you invest with, the rate of return, the length of time you want to invest and approval of the asset your money is secured by. With rental properties, you are in control of what you buy, the improvements that will increase rents and what costs are passed onto the tenants, such as landscaping and shared utility expenses.

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.


Vanguard: Vanguard has a minimum of $50,000 and a fee of 0.3%. Rebalancing is done automatically once every quarter and tax loss harvesting is done on a client-by-client basis. We included Vanguard because clients who invest between $50,000-$500,000 have access to a team of financial advisors. Those with accounts over $500,000 will have a dedicated advisor.
What I like about p2p investing on Lending Club is the website’s automated investing tool. You pick the criteria for loans in which you want to invest and the program does the rest. It will look for loans every day that meet those factors and automatically invest your money. It’s important because you’re collecting money on your loan investments every day so you want that money reinvested as soon as possible.
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.
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.
One great way to generate a passive income is through affiliate marketing. Now, this does depend on the size of your list. Yes, size matters when it comes to your list. Especially if you're looking to make some serious money and do it on autopilot. But, list-building takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. And you need to add value to your list or you become obsolete.
7) Never Withdraw From Your Financial Nut. The biggest downfall I see from people looking to build passive income is that they withdraw from their financial nut too soon. There’s somehow always an emergency which eats away at the positive effects of compounding returns. Make sure your money is invested and not just sitting in your savings account. The harder to access your money, the better. Make it your mission to always contribute X amount every month and consistently increase the savings amount by a percentage or several until it hurts. Pause for a month or two and then keep going. You’ll be amazed how much you can save. You just won’t know because you’ve likely never tested savings limits to the max.

If you know anything well, a place, how to fix something, how to make something, how to do something, you can write a guide for it. You can sell your guide as an e-book, offer it as a download for a fee on your site or reach out to bloggers with similar content and ask if they will offer it as a paid download on their website (for a price of course).
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).
Another option: Consider starting your own real estate investment group. This is a great way to team together with other small investors, either via pooling your money together or simply by learning from eachother. According to Joseph Hogue, CFA from PeerFinance101.com, “The common bond in all real estate investing groups is that you help each other compete against the big money players to get the best returns.”

In order not to succumb to that, Flynn says it’s important to know your motivation. “Passive income is important to me not just for the financial security but so I can spend time with my family,” he says. “I’ve been able to work from home and witness all my kids’ firsts. I have a one-year-old and a four-year-old, and that's what drives me and gets me pushing through those hard times and why I keep creating new products and why I want to help other people do the same thing.” https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51wMOJb44TL.jpg
One of the great parts about the online world is that a website and its domain name is like real estate - It can go up in value over time. In fact, sometimes just the domain name without the developed business can be worth quite a lot to some people. Of course, like almost anything mentioned here, the necessary know-how is required. If you’re willing to put some time into it, then you can earn a nice online income. So far I sold 4 domain names with an average price tag of a couple of thousand dollars. Nice income, considering I bought each domain for around $10….If this income stream interests you, check out flippa.com - It’s one of the best marketplaces I know for selling websites or domain names.
I’m feeling inspired! I’ve been a PT for 19 years and I feel I have so much experience to offer but have been so intimated by starting a blog. I also subscribed to Michelle’s website but wasn’t sure it was for real. Is it for real? After reading this I feel like it’s time to take the plunge, I need to start a blog, I have so many ideas and even course ideas. I want to get away from the paperwork that plagues our healthcare system but not leave the field so the blog just might be the answer. I’ve been a landlord for 15 years now, great investment for sure, renters paid for the down payment of our house and should hopefully help pay for our kids college. I’d love to have one more! Thank you for the inspiration, wish me luck with my blogging!
When I started building my architecture-related business in 2008, I made my first dollar through advertising. I’d spent a lot of time and money building the site and getting traffic. Then one day I threw an ad on the site one day, and I made $1.18. Sure, I could find that much under my couch cushions—but that’s not the point! The point is that I was able to build something online, put an ad up, and make money without having to do anything. I learned it was possible, and it motivated me to move forward.
It is probably the biggest digital products marketplace online. Clickbank uses a very helpful measure called ‘gravity’ to represent how well a product sells, based on how many sales have been made and how recent these sales were. There’s one thing you want to be aware of though! ClickBank will withhold payment of any balance until an account shows a minimum of 5 sales using at least two types of payment methods. Not only that, if you made a sale but had no earnings for an extended period of time, your account will be subject to an ongoing penalty. This means that your affiliate earnings can potentially drop to zero. Nowadays, I rarely promote Clickbank products.

Passive income is defined as income-generating activity that is independent or loosely dependent on time commitment. Just so we’re on the same page, here, there’s no such thing as making money without creating value (I wish), and creating value takes time and effort. So, you are technically transacting time for money, in a way. But passive income is where we separate or at least alienate the proportional relationship between time spent and money made. It’s where there is no longer a fixed ratio, and if there is, it’s not a 1:1 ratio, but more like a 10 or 20:1 ratio of man-hours-worth-of-time to actual time. As another side note, knowing how much your time is worth both to you and on the open market is a valuable piece of information for guaging how effective your passive income activities need to be.

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


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.
“There is no such thing as 100% passive income,” says Flynn. “Even with real estate you still have to manage your properties, or even with the stock market, which is potentially passive income, you still have to manage your portfolio. With online business, there is no such thing as 100% passive income — and this is coming from a guy with a blog called SmartPassiveIncome.com. The definition of passive income is ‘building these businesses of automation,’ but in order to keep them automated and keep that trust going with your audience on top of that, you do have to keep it up every once in a while — so a lot of time upfront and a little time after. But there is alway time involved.”

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.
The time commitment for real estate investing isn’t as continuous as with blogging but it can be a part-time job if you have enough properties and the wrong tenants. Sacrifice a little return for quality tenants and repair problems right the first time. These two simple ideas will save you a ton of time and turn out to be the more profitable solution over the long-run.
One aspect you might want to add to your scoring is “inflation protection”. At one end, bonds and CDs generally pay a fixed nominal coupon that doesn’t rise with inflation. Stock dividends and Real estate rents (and underlying property value) tend to. Not reallly sure how P2P lending ranks- though I suppose the timeframes are fairly short (1 year or less?) and therefore the interest you receive takes into account the current risk free rate + a premium for your risk. Now that I think about it, P2P lending probably deserves a lower score in the activity column than bonds too (since you probably need to make new loans more often).
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.
Great job, note the home upsizing works only in appreciating housing markets (I’ve done a similar this in CA but it was 7 years same home to gain almost 500k profit which is around the govt cap for tax-free home profits. What a gift! Thanks booming economy and generous govt taxation on home profits). Those proceeds bought our next house cash and invested the remainder in domestic stock (which has been equally profitable).
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.
​Udemy is an online platform that lets its user take video courses on a wide array of subjects. Instead of being a consumer on Udemy you can instead be a producer, create your own video course, and allow users to purchase it. This is a fantastic option if you are highly knowledgeable in a specific subject matter. This can also be a great way to turn traditional tutoring into a passive income stream!
​Udemy is an online platform that lets its user take video courses on a wide array of subjects. Instead of being a consumer on Udemy you can instead be a producer, create your own video course, and allow users to purchase it. This is a fantastic option if you are highly knowledgeable in a specific subject matter. This can also be a great way to turn traditional tutoring into a passive income stream!
But two months later, with the economy slowing down after the financial crisis, his firm began laying people off, and Flynn was informed that after his current projects were finished, he also would be out of a job. At the same time, he couldn’t help but notice that in the LEED exam forums he had frequented, people were referring to him as an expert and directing questions his way. He began to think he might capitalize on that.
To your point about Municipal Bonds, my concern is tax reform. While everything is mostly being worked behind closed doors (and likely wont ever see the light of day). There is still the chance they propose to limit the amount of the tax free nature of these bonds. While I dont sen panic in the streets, I do see a scenario where bond prices get additional pressure because municipalities have to increase rates due to people putting their money to work elsewhere.
Acorns: Acorns is a great way to start investing and building wealth. As it turns out, Acorns will pay you $5 to start investing with them for as little as $1. That’s a 500% return, plus it’s probably time you started investing for your future. They even have features like round-up and found money that allows you to get free money from places you already shop at. https://cdn.smartpassiveincome.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2018-0709.jpg

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 retirement is a goal of yours (and who doesn’t want to retire someday?!?), it’s important to learn how to start investing. In fact, funding your retirement accounts should be at the top of your list. While these accounts won’t help your immediate situation, by stashing cash now, the residual income they create should help propel you through your golden years.
The age old argument of total return versus income has been, incorrectly imo, categorized as an either or proposition. We are going to do both. Right now I have a lot cash in an on line money market. I also have investments in 2 passive Index funds in a taxable account. We then have substantial 401ks/IRA’s which we won’t touch for at least 10 years. My wife will continue to max out her sep and we will continue to invest in the index funds although with a smaller amount. We have already factored that in. I looked at how to cut into the monthly deficit. Here is what I observed.
We’ll look more closely at how to find a property’s NOI later in the article. There are two ways to look at the cap rate formula above. If you know what kind of return you want to achieve or the average return on similar properties, published frequently for commercial real estate investment, then you can find an approximate value by dividing the NOI by required return (NOI/return rate).
In 2017, I ended up deploying roughly $611,000 into stocks and $604,327 into municipal bonds. The stock allocation should boost dividend income by about $12,500 a year, and the municipal-bond portion should boost income by about $18,000 a year after tax ($26,000 pre-tax). Therefore, total passive income gets an about $38,500 lift, which recovers over half of my $60,000 loss from selling the house.
Nonpassive: Businesses in which the taxpayer materially participates. Also, salaries, guaranteed payments, 1099 commission income and portfolio or investment income are deemed to be nonpassive. Portfolio income includes interest income, dividends, royalties, gains and losses on stocks, pensions, lottery winnings, and any other property held for investment
Thanks for your ideas I love them, also agriculture investment can be nice like tomato hothouse with half the produce for the grower and the sales profit for the grower The genocide against the international Japanese community some 2 million in the European Union at least can break the world economy and leave the One Sunrise War for True Japanese Survival the only alternative
I will share what we did, because it’s an incredible success story. We used an existing tax loophole where if you sell your primary residence (after having lived there at least two years) you get to keep your profit tax-free. So, we stair-stepped. We bought house after house, at least two years apart, used the profit money to pay down on the next house (so on and so forth, yadda yadda) building up equity as we went along… and now, we own a $600,000 house debt-free. And now we are using our paid-off home as leverage to borrow money to buy commercial buildings to rent out. I like commercial because it’s a BUSINESS transaction… kids, pets, other wear and tear that you see with residential rentals is nonexistent. People take care of their business space much better than residential. You have to be in a good area for renting out commercial – a thriving business community – to make this work. But that’s how we “made it”, and though it took 15 years, we will have residual income to take care of us when we’re old enough to retire. People made fun of us for moving so much, but who’s laughing now? 😉 Oh, and our child only had to change schools once (and we wanted to anyway) because we stayed in the same general area as we moved around. We were careful not to disrupt his life too much.
The capitalization rate approach to real estate valuation is much more straight-forward but may not give you a true market value. The cap rate is simply the annual net operating income (NOI) of the property divided by the cost or value. Net operating income is the amount left from rents after all expenses are paid but before taxes and interest payments.
Perhaps a coworker purposefully tries to make your life miserable because they resent your success. Maybe you get passed over for a promotion and a raise because you weren’t vocal enough about your abilities, and mistakenly thought you worked in a meritocracy. Or maybe you have a new boss who decides to clean house and hire her own people. Whatever the case may be, you will eventually tire.
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