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.
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.
It’s not just the little guys like me who are being squeezed by the constant updates. Even YouTube’s top creators have expressed frustration with changes to the YouTube monetization platform. It’s constantly changing and evolving, so you must be willing to adapt. Plus, it helps having a blog so you’re not relying on a single platform or your income.
This is mostly passive once you have it all set up, but it does take a lot of work at the beginning. Real estate investing also requires occasional maintenance. Currently, we invest in a couple of rental properties and earn about $500 profit from each per month. You can read more about my rental properties at MoneySmartLife.com: How and Why I Became a Landlord.
"The majority of people I see who are interested in passive income and pursuing it, haven't learned how to create value in the first place. They're just trying to do gimmicks and tricks and formulas. They're trying to do the automation part, but they've missed the point that the automation only spits off cash if it's based first on automating something that actually creates value. If you automate something that is worthless---or worse than worthless, a scam -- it's not going to work in the long run."
The appeal of these passive income sources is that you can diversify across many small investments, rather than in a handful of large ones. When you invest directly in real estate, you have to commit a lot of capital to individual projects. When you invest in these crowdfunded investments, you can spread your money across many uncorrelated real estate ventures so individual investments don't cause significant issues.
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.

Passive income is a great tool for building retirement income faster, paying off debts, and, ultimately, retiring early and comfortably. If you have passive income during your retirement years, you potentially could live as well as you did during your peak earning years. Passive income is money you earn without doing actual labor. Often times, it comes from investments, such as in rental properties, stocks, bonds, annuities, and other investments.


But first, let’s about talk passive income! What is passive income? There are many different definitions out there, but mine goes something like this: Passive income is all about building online businesses that can work for you, that allow you to generate income, and grow and scale, without a real-time presence. In other words, you don’t trade time for money. You build something up front that can continue to work for you over time.
Secondly – and this is just quibbling – I’d change that risk score. The risk of private equity is incredibly high and should be considerably riskier than bonds! You are providing a typically very large amount of capital to one business that you agree to have no control over, and the success or failure of that business over a locked, predefined term determines your return. And in the few deals I’ve negotiated for clients, my experience has been that there are often management fees, performance fees, etc. that may cut into your potential gains, anyway. You’re putting a lot of eggs in one basket, and promising an omelet or two to the management no matter what. You really need to be confident that you found the next Uber before you take this giant risk!
And real estate does more than just track inflation – it throws off income (which is important to some people and useful to most). And while your underlying asset is appreciating, the income also grows as rents increase over time. And if you make smart and well-timed purchases, both rents and asset values can increase at well above the rate of inflation.
​I’ve been into home décor lately and I had to turn to Etsy to find exactly what I wanted. I ended up purchasing digital files of the artwork I wanted printed out! The seller had made a bunch of wall art, digitized, and listed it on Etsy for instant download. There are other popular digital files on Etsy as well such as monthly planners. If you’re into graphic design this could be an amazing passive income idea for you.
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.
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.

That is a nice list of passive income sources. Actually, the most up-to-date list of dividend growth stocks is the list of dividend champions, maintained by Dave Fish. The list of dividend aristocrats is incomplete at best. For example, the dividend champions list has over 100 companies that have managed to increase dividends each year for at least 25 years in a row. The list of dividend aristocrats has no more than 50 – 60.
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.
There are three main categories of income: active income, passive income and portfolio income. Passive income has been a relatively loosely used term in recent years. Colloquially, it’s been used to define money being earned regularly with little or no effort on the part of the person receiving it. Popular types of passive income include real estate, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and dividend stocks. Proponents of earning passive income tend to be boosters of a work-from-home and be-your-own-boss professional lifestyle. The type of earnings people usually associate with this are gains on stocks, interest, retirement pay, lottery winnings, online work and capital gains. 
When you have several rental income properties, you make your money two ways. The most obvious is the revenue stream created by rental income. So long as the amount collected in rents surpasses the amount paid for mortgages, taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and property management services, you will reap a well-sown harvest of rental income each month. The other way you can profit is by increasing the value of a turnkey rental property and mining the equity that you build. You either can take low interest loans against the equity or sell a property outright if you have others that will continue producing a good stream of passive income.
The reason I consider dividends artificial and believe they don’t matter is because you can just as easily reinvest your dividends. If a stock is worth $100/share, I don’t care if it issues a $1/share dividend or if the share price instead increases to $101/share – either way, I have the same amount of money, because there’s no difference to my net worth whether I take the dividend or sell part of a stock.
“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. 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.”

From what he describes, creating passive income definitely does not sound easy. It requires a serious ramp-up -- often requires 80- to 100-hour workweeks in the beginning, says Flynn. But once up and running, and depending on the content, some sites take fairly minimal maintenance. Green Exam Academy, the LEED exam study site he launched in 2008, takes just him four to five hours a month to maintain but brings in $250,000 annually.
I read about early withdrawal penalties on IRAs/401Ks very often. Almost always with a statement of “locked up” or “can’t touch” until 59.5. I’m sure you and well informed readers as well know about SEPPs in regard to IRAs/401Ks. For those that don’t SEPPs aren’t perfect but they are a way to tap retirement funds penalty free and I will be using in the future as I have over half of my equity investments within retirement accounts. South of a mil, North of a half. Let me add that I think your blog is outstanding.
Unfortunately, I was never great with finances growing up. In fact, I had only recently rid myself of some serious credit card debt that had followed me from college and through a good deal of residency. I had poor spending habits and treated my investments like gambling – trying to hit the home run every time. Unfortunately, I struck out quite a bit.

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

What I’m doing: I use this site to write out goals like 1) Generating $200,000 a year working 4 hours a day or less, 2) Trying to make winning investments, and 3) Keeping track of my passive income streams with free financial tools. My site and the community helps keep me accountable for progress. It’s important I do what I say, otherwise, what the hell is the point? You should consider starting a site or at least a private journal. Write out your specific goals, tell several close friends and stick to the plan.
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.
But when so many turn down leasing one and one-half acre for one Wind Turbine for each 80 acres, that lease certainly does not materially affect the rest of the Farm or Ranch grazing pasture and the lease pays much more than the farm crow or grazing pasture lease, just because some lawyer said the lease was too long: 30 years plus 30 year option = 60 years, and the wind turbine company has selling production/electricity contracts for the next 150 years – which is needed to obtain financing!

1) Save Like Nobody Owes You Anything. Passive income starts with savings. Without a healthy amount of savings, nothing works. Your overall “Money Strength” will be an F- if you do not build a financial nut. In our current low interest rate environment, you must save even more than before. It’s important to also realize that the savings I am referring to is AFTER-tax savings. You need to save money after contributing to your 401k and IRAs since you can’t touch pre-tax retirement accounts without a penalty until 59.5. Ideally everyone should max out their pre-tax retirement funds first, but if you don’t have enough funds and want to retire earlier then a decision to have more accessible post tax money will still work.
"People will pay to learn what you know about programming or designing, how to be a better public speaker, and or how to increase sales. How you design, develop and create your e-course will depend on what you teach, how you teach, and the best way for your readers to learn" Zelenko says. Sure, you'll spend some time and money developing your course on platforms such as Udemy.com or Teachable.com, but once you've created it, there's minimal upkeep.
I have had a LC account for almost 2 years. Invested 5k. A lot of very small loans. Unfortunately I had to invest though Folio FN. The fees reduce your return. Now, they are not even allowing that. My interest and return of principal are not being reinvested. I talked with LC and they are working on it for my state. Even if I can obtain access to the prime portfolio, I would only place 10 percent of my cash here and would reinvest for at least 3 years. I am still concerned about what would happen when a recession hits.
They've delegated, automated, streamlined, systematized, etc. Not with the intention of sitting on some beach somewhere for the rest of their lives and watching the checks roll in, but with the intention of freeing up their time to create even more value that they're inspired to create, either by leading that business to the next level of greatness and service to greater audiences, or by starting a new business.
I get excited every paycheck because I know my investments are going to increase by a decent chunk. I use Mint to keep a close eye on what the current value is at and make goal marks to hit. Every time I hit a goal, I do a little happy dance and decide what I want my next marker to be and when I want to hit it by. I’m nowhere close to being financially independent or even debt free, but it’s exciting to see the ground work being laid and watching it grow.
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.

The reason I consider dividends artificial and believe they don’t matter is because you can just as easily reinvest your dividends. If a stock is worth $100/share, I don’t care if it issues a $1/share dividend or if the share price instead increases to $101/share – either way, I have the same amount of money, because there’s no difference to my net worth whether I take the dividend or sell part of a stock.

I've got a $185,000 CD generating 3% interest coming due. Although the return is low, it's guaranteed. The CD gave me the confidence to invest more aggressively in risk over the years. My online interest income has come down since I aggressively deployed some capital at the beginning of the year and again during the February market correction. You'll see these figures in my quarterly investment-income update.
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.
Brian had found a huge need for web design in the restaurant and food truck space. After getting tired of working with client after client, he decided to turn his service-based business into a product-based one. He made his services more standardized and productized. He eliminated all his client work and created templates and products to serve that market instead. And it’s been going great for him.

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.
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.
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).
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.”

Again, no leader worth her salt will be attracted to such an opportunity. And anyone you do hire to lead the value creation, if they have two brain cells, will see that she's the one adding all the value. Sooner or later she will simply find a way to cut you out of the value chain, either by requiring more and more compensation, or by going off and competing against you (and actively at that.) Why does she need you? You're not adding any value anyway!
This is an ideal strategy if you live in an area where real estate prices are too high to realistically invest in, or you don’t want the hassle and expense of traveling all over the country visiting potential properties. Plus, if you are new to single-family real estate investing, letting a place like Roofstock guide you through the process is a great way to get your feet wet. https://www.mamafishsaves.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Basics-passive-income-Facebook.jpg
Crowdfunding is a newer way to invest, having emerged onto the scene just within the last few years. Most people have heard of sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, and a very similar concept exists for real estate. Developers are always looking to raise capital to fund their projects. Through the various online platforms, investors have access to these projects and can choose to invest in both residential and commercial properties. See the List of My Favorite Crowdfunding Sites.
Anthony, nice setup! To your question about the rental mortgages, you haven’t said what interest rate you are paying. As a start, if you are paying more than the risk free rate (Treasury bills) which you probably are, then a true apples to apples comparison would be yes, pay off the mortgage. But, if you are comfortable taking more risk, you have other options to invest in which you *hope* will yield you more over the coming years. You also didn’t say whether the rentals generate net income and if so, how much? What is the implied rate of return on the equity you have invested in them? If you pay the mortgages off, you’ll have even more equity tied up, will the extra net income make that worthwhile? Maybe you should use the money to buy more rentals instead, if purchase opportunities still exist in your town. … this is less of an answer than a framework to analyze the decision, hope it is helpful.
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).
Or you could do joint ventures/strategic alliances for your business or for other businesses and make residual cash flow for $0 investment.. that’s what I do lol. No money, no risk, little time, 20+ years working from home. Just connect companies and take a %, use the Internet to do it locally or globally, be the intermediary & connect companies…. ;-)
When a taxpayer records a loss on a passive activity, only passive activity profits can have their deductions offset instead of the income as a whole. It would be considered prudent for a person to ensure all the passive activities were classified that way so they can make the most of the tax deduction. These deductions are allocated for the next tax year and are applied in a reasonable manner that takes into account the next year's earnings or losses.
A business factoring company that seamlessly integrates with a particular sales-tracking software and provides real-time distribution of commissions. You would need to find a factoring company or an investor who specializes in funding direct-response companies, a risk analyst to audit risk associated with each sale within a company, and a third-party payment verification service.
Nobody gets early FI investing in bonds, CD’s, or even stocks unless they make a huge income or are extremely frugal or a combination of both. Paper assets just don’t provide enough returns. Business income can be great but it is typically not as semi-passive as I would like and there is a relatively high failure rate. That is if you can monetize an ideal to begin with. RE investing needs to be higher ranked IMO as a way that the “average guy” can become FI.

This is such a fabulous piece. Thank you for your amazing efforts here. I was wondering -any initial thoughts on what one would charge an employer to post a job (for the idea about creating a site to help people with their resumes, etc)? I need to research for sure but was curious if anyone has any ideas on this. I have a background in the corporate world in management and recruiting and have been tossing this idea around for a while but am stuck. Thank you!
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