Investing in rental properties is an effective way to earn passive income. But it often requires more work than people expect. If you don’t take the time to learn how to make it a profitable venture, you could lose your investment and then some, says John H. Graves, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) in the Los Angeles area and author of “The 7% Solution: You Can Afford a Comfortable Retirement.”
We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.
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.
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.
What’s also really important to realize here is that when I took the exam I was teaching people to study for, I didn’t get a perfect score. In fact, I didn’t even get close to a perfect score. I passed. But I also knew a lot about this exam—way more than somebody who was just getting started diving into studying for it. And it was because of that, because I was just a few steps ahead of them, that they trusted me to help them with that information. To support this, I provided a lot of great free value to help them along the way. I engaged in conversations and interacted in comments sections and on forums. Most of all, I just really cared about those people, because I struggled big-time with that exam myself.
Investing in real estate: Investing in real estate offers more passive income cash potential - but more risk - than investing in stocks or bonds. You'll need substantial amounts of cash to invest in buying a home -- it usually takes 20% down to land a good home mortgage loan. But history shows that home prices usually rise over time, so buying home a for $200,000 and selling it for $250,000 over a five-year time period, for example, is a reasonable expectation when investing in real estate.

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.


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.
Awesome article…if this does not give somebody a clear roadmap, they probably were never going to get there in the first place! I’m kind of like you trying to figure out where to place “new” money and maturing CD’s in this low interest environment. Rates have to go up eventually…I dream of the days again where you can build a laddered bond portfolio paying 8%. I plan for a 5.5% blended rate of return, with big downside protection.

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!
This encompasses everything from eBooks to stock images and even Udemy courses. The idea here is to create a digital good that has value. Why digital? Well, if you’re creating really unique hand-made socks, you can’t just duplicate them and resell them. Furthermore, you have to pack and ship each pair. Both of these things mean that there’s a fixed ratio of labor to income, and we’ve already discussed why that’s not ideal. Digital goods can be duplicated, and we can engineer systems (or use online marketplaces) to deliver them automatically. Awesome.

Quick story: Remember that $1.18 I found in the couch? Even when that increased to $30 to $50 a day, it still wasn’t enough to live on. So I looked for other options. In August 2008, after people started to know who I was and how I could help them pass the LEED certification exam through my blog, I wrote an ebook. It included all the information I knew about passing this exam, and I sold it on my blog for $19.95.


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.
In order to build an audience, you need to have a platform. You need to have something worth following and sharing; something that’s valuable to others. And that, of course, takes time. That’s not to say you can’t build a huge audience in a short amount of time. But as much as we hear about the people who’ve succeeding at doing this, we don’t hear about the millions of others who are struggling every day to get just a few more fans and followers.
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.

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.


One of the most appealing options, particularly for millennials, would be #12 on your list (create a Blog/Youtube channel). The videos can be about anything that interests you, from your daily makeup routine (with affiliate links to the products you use), recipes (what you eat each day) or as you mention, instructional videos (again with affiliate links to the products you use). Once you gain a large following and viewership, you can earn via Adsense on YouTube.
Making legitimate passive income isn’t as difficult as you might think. Some of the best passive income ideas might take a little time to set up but can start cash flowing within a couple of months and will provide a consistent monthly income for years or more. The most important point is just to get started. You make exactly $0 on the passive income sources you never start.
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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.

Seeing the residential real estate boom coming, I started buying single-family rentals in 2002. I learned a lot about real estate investing and passive income properties over the next five years. As someone that has flipped houses as well as managed a group of rental properties, the best advice I can offer is to know yourself and how much time you are willing to spend on the business.
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?
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.

We have decided to invest in 2 ETFs, a multi asset allocation ETF (Fixed Inc, alts and div paying equities) and a preferred stock ETF. This will cover almost 45 percent of our deficit. We will be extremely diversified, can access the markets at a very low cost and the investments are liquid. On this pool of $, we have no plans to invade principal unless the investment grows by 20 percent, which we think is unlikely given the characteristics of the investments.

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.
Even if you don’t have the skills right now, it’s possible to develop them. Envato Tuts+ has a load of great courses that teach you how to make WordPress themes, Photoshop actions and so on. If you invest a few months into learning the necessary skills, you might well be able to carve out a spot for yourself in the Envato Market or in our new curated website Envato Elements. 

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.


You know the fantasy: write some ebook (or better yet, hire freelancers in Mumbai to research and write it for you at $.20/word!) on some niche topic, set up AdWords and Facebook campaigns targeted to the right keywords (you can hire those Mumbai guys to do your keyword research too), put up a cheap landing page (with copy written by... guess who!), press "Go!" on the PPC campaign, and voilà. . . just wait for the money to roll in while you sleep!
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.
eBay is, of course, the biggest and most popular auction and shopping site out there. You pay a small insertion fee to list your product (starting from 10 cents) and a small portion of the selling price (10%) if your item sells. Currently, insertion fees for your first 50 listings per calendar month are free. Also, if you are planning to sell on regular basis, you may want to consider setting up an Ebay store. Among other things, this will allow you to list your products at reduced rates.
I have to agree. Our Duplex cost us 200k initially in 1998. Over time and completely refurbishing the property with historically appropriate sensitivity, we invested another 200k or so. We just had a realtor advise us we could ask 700k for it today. It nets us 30k annually after taxes, insurance and maintenance. We still have a loan on it which I have not taken into account, that will be paid off within 5 years if we keep it. My mental drama now is, while I am quite giddy over the prospect of earning a tidy sum of profit if I sell, what then would I do to equal the ROI and monthly income this thing generates? Rents are low, they should be 4k a month and will only go up. Tempted to keep it and not sell. And while I do have some stocks, I basically suck at them. I am much better at doing properties.
​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!

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.
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 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.
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