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.
You can make money whichever way floats your boat. I got a lot of slack in this post for trading forex, but I live in one country, and need currency from three other countries where I own property and travel to often, so when one currency is cheap, I do take advantage of fluctuations. It may not be your thing, but the important part is that you have more than one source of income.

What I did: I first identified my favorite places in the world to live: San Francisco, Honolulu, Paris, Amsterdam, New York City, and Lake Tahoe. I then looked up the median rent and housing prices for each city. Then I factored in private education costs for two kids to be conservative given I may not have two kids and public schools are often good enough. After calculating all vital costs, I then did a self-assessment of how happy I was making $50,000, $100,000, $150,000, $200,000, $250,000, $350,000, $500,000, and $750,000. I decided working 20 hours a week making $200,000 a year is the best income balance for maximum happiness. 
The much loved model for bloggers and content creators everywhere and for a good reason…it’s pretty easy to write a 60-80 page ebook, not hard to sell say $500 worth a month through online networking, guest posting and your own SEO optimized blog, and well you get to keep a large whack of the pie after paying affiliates.  Hells yeah!  Continue reading >
One of the things I'm surprised your article doesn't mention is the tax advantages of this type of investment. The depreciation and rehab costs (purchasing distressed properties) can be huge deductions to ones income taxes, which none of the others have. Then, along with the appreciation of real estate, this passive income investment outperforms the notion of maxing out my 401k as well.

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.
Portfolio income can come from multiple sources – interest/bond coupons, stock dividends, financial strategies including derivatives and capital growth.  Each offers some cash flow and some also offer potential capital gain with some risk from liquidity and volatile prices.  In this low-yield environment, many investors rely too heavily on cash flows and to pursue this are venturing further into riskier areas than they’d normally consider.