Passive income differs from earned income and portfolio income in a variety of ways. Passive income is generally defined as a stream of income earned with little effort, and it is referred to as progressive passive income when there is little effort needed from the individual receiving the passive income in order to grow the stream of income. Examples of passive income include rental income and any business activities in which the earner does not materially participate during the year.


Start an affiliate marketing website: This passive income model works for individuals who already own a bog or website. Here, your business goal is to contact companies and offer to tout their products and services, usually for a fee or a commission, based on the number of page views you get. Studies show that more people spend time online and less watching TV or reading the newspaper. Take advantage of that leverage and earn income from the tens of thousands of companies who want to reach an audience - maybe your audience. Either reach out to companies directly or go through a site like ClickBank, which offers affiliate marketing opportunities.
There’s a second downside to this model. Although I’ve done advertising and sponsorships in the past, and have made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so, the truth is it takes a lot of time for this business model to start to generate income for you, because you need to build that audience first. In addition, what happens when you build your audience on a platform that ends up changing its algorithm, affecting how often you actually get seen by the audience you’ve built?
Hey Mike! Love this article. Recently, I paid off my student loans and am crazy focused on creating multiple passive income streams. Currently, all my passive income comes from real estate and because of your great articles on the subject I called to check out refinance options! I had no clue about CD laddering, dividend investing or P2P lending until two weeks ago when I started doing my research on where to put my hard earned money. I had been just saving it but when I looked at the terrible 0.01% return I said forget it! 2 % for me is a great way to start. It is better than what I have been getting outside of my real estate. Also, creating products is a must! I’m working on this type of royalty too. I find it so exciting to learn how to use your money to make money. Thanks and I will be sure to link to you when I start my blog!
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“I don’t believe the overnight success exists. There’s a lot of hard work and time involved beforehand,” say Flynn. Angry Birds may have seemed like an overnight success but it was the 52nd game that Rovio created. Flynn says it took him a year or year and a half to build audiences for his most successful sites. (Read these time management expert's tips on the work habits of successful people.)
For those willing to take on the task of managing a property, real estate can be a powerful semi-passive income stream due to the combination of rental and principal value appreciation. But to generate passive income from real estate, you either have to rent out a room in your house, rent out your entire house and rent elsewhere (seems counterproductive), or buy a rental property. It’s important to realize that owning your primary residence means you are neutral the real estate market. Renting means you are short the real estate market, and only after buying two or more properties are you actually long real estate.
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.
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”.
Dividends made sense 40 years ago as a relatively simple rule of thumb, but after all the work done by John Bogle with index investing, and academics with Monte Carlo sims and the 4% rule, dividend investing just isn’t the simplest, cleanest way to invest or receive passive income anymore. It’s actually significantly more risky compared to index investing, because dividend companies are a much smaller share of the total global economy compared to the broader indices.
I’m a 45 year old business owner who also has focussed on diversifying my income streams. I have a short term vacation rental in Florida that I bought for $390k in 2012 and net rental income for the last three years has been growing steadily. 2015 I am at $70k gross right now but should end up at $80-85k with net around $45k plus we use the place about 35 nights a year.
California had a per capita income of $29,906 during the five-year period comprising years 2010 through 2014. About every third county and every third place in California had per capita incomes above the state average. Though somewhat counterintuitive, this implies that counties and places with per capita incomes even slightly exceeding that of the state can be classified as "high income" given the natural division of places into a top third (high), middle third (medium), and lower third (low) when ranked by per capita income. Hence, the upper third of all places in this ranking have a per capita income with a lower bound roughly equal to that of the state, about $30,000. The median place and county in California had a per capita income of roughly $25,000, and the lower third of both types of geographies had per capita incomes with an upper bound of about $20,000. Places and counties with the highest per capita income were concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a relatively high cost of living. Those with the lowest per capita incomes were concentrated in the Central Valley, an economy in which agriculture assumes a primary role.
You’re right Ed, it does require capital to get income from a rental property. However, I started hustling when I was a teen, baby-sitting, teaching younger kids the piano, doing homework with middle schoolers, being a French and Spanish tutor, none of which requires an initial investment. As do pet sitting, housekeeping, lawn mowing, house painting, and many gigs around.
My favorite type of semi-passive income was rental property because it was a tangible asset that provided reliable income. As I grew older, my interest in rental property waned because I no longer had the patience and time to deal with maintenance issues and tenants. Online real estate became more attractive, along with tax-free municipal-bond income once rates started to rise.
Refinancing may not be worth it to you, depending on your situation and interest rates, but maybe a reverse mortgage is just what you need. It's typically an option well worth considering for those in or near retirement. A reverse mortgage is essentially a loan, with the amount borrowed not having to be repaid until you die, sell your home, or stop living in it (perhaps because you moved to a nursing home or died). At that time, the home can be sold to cover the debt -- or your heirs can pay it off and keep the home. Reverse-mortgage income is often tax-free, which is another big plus. The amount you get can be delivered in monthly installments, providing very passive and reliable income in retirement.
I’m still a big fan of InfoBarrel, Eric, even though I haven’t been able to write much. With what I am earning there, I’ve actually shifted to outsourcing quite a bit of content…call it a “respite” from writing, I had just needed a break. Even if one pays $5-$10 per article, IF the keywords are researched properly and effectively, one can easily turn that one article and earn several hundred off of it in it’s lifetime. Right now, one of my friends had written a single article that, already this month, has earned over $83 on InfoBarrel. Not too shabby at all…

I like to think about having an additional source of income as being sort of like an insurance policy. I interviewed one young woman who taught aerobics classes in the evenings after spending her days working as a videographer for news organizations. When she was unexpectedly laid off from her day job, she quickly doubled her aerobics teaching load and was able to keep herself afloat until she found a new full-time job. Some more examples of income multi-streaming are a teacher I know who sells used baby clothes out of her home and a young couple who run a small Internet business on the weekends. Just like these people, you can also pick a profitable project or create a business that matches your lifestyle. 
​Self Publishing is mainstream today. When you purchase an eBook off of Amazon there’s a pretty good chance you’re buying a self-published book. Self-publishing is also ridiculously easy. I tried this a few years ago and couldn’t believe how simple the process was. To self-publish a book you’ll first need to write and edit it, create a cover, and then upload to a program such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Don’t expect instant success though. There will need to be a lot of upfront marketing before you can turn this into a passive income stream.
Thirst for income is likely to continue with interest rates expected to stay low, keeping government bond yields low for longer and their valuations unattractive.  Looking past bonds, the prices of high-dividend shares are historically high, which limits the likelihood that their dividends will rise markedly from here.  Striving too high for an income target tends to push your portfolio further out on the risk spectrum.

Speaking of selling stuff online, that's another mostly passive way to generate income. You could generate an income stream for a while by clearing out your basement or attic and selling items on eBay or elsewhere. This can be especially effective with collections. If you have lots of games or jigsaw puzzles that are taking up space and not being used, they can be great sources of income. You might reap a lot by selling new and used clothing you don't need.
Leveraging the internet to create, connect, and sell is something every creative person should attempt to do. The only risk is lost time and a wounded ego. You can start a site like mine for as little as $2.95 a month with Bluehost and go from there. They give you a free domain name for a year. Forget all the add-ons. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for my site.

The other point is that it is pretty easy to get started.  You don’t need to be super rich, and you don’t need a lot of time to get started.  To say it requires no time would be a lie, but you don’t need to make anything listed above your life.  You can work at your job, invest your excess income, save to buy a rental property or rent out a room in your current house, and you start a side job online without breaking a sweat.

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.


I really enjoyed how you listed all of the reasons to build passive income streams as well as the framework. You also made an interesting point about freelance writing on how the more skilled writers want to keep posts for their own website. Good insight because freelance writing is something I’ve been looking into for income recently. Also, it’s amazing what you’ve been able to accomplish with your blog over the past 6 years. It’s so motivational to see the success of Financial Samurai. I’m not in a place to afford any consulting, but, I wish I could pick your brain or get mentored by a successful blogger such as yourself…Not trying to blow smoke lol. It would just be so great to have someone who’s done it provide guidance around the direction of the blog, ways to earn, and on the general concept. Always enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing :)
Dividend stocks tend to be more mature companies that are past their high growth stage. Utilities, telecoms, and financial sectors tend to make up the majority of dividend paying companies. Tech, Internet, and biotech, on the other hand, tend not to pay any dividends because they are reinvesting most of their retained earnings back into their company for growth.
That strategy seems waaaayyyy less risky than actively picking stocks of supposedly “reliable” stocks that issue dividends, which could be cut at any time due to shifting industry trends and company performance. Dividend investing feels like an overly complex old-school way of investing that doesn’t have a very strong intellectual basis compared to index investing.
Once you start to see some success, don’t be led astray by the money. While Flynn does use affiliate marketing to make money, he only ever recommends products that he has personally used and likes. He is inundated by offers to earn $50 per sale through commission on products he has never even tried. “I’m like, ‘I don’t even know you, I don’t know what this product can do, and I don’t know if this product will help my audience.’ I only use products I’ve used before, because that trust you have with your audience is the most important thing in the world.” He says if you do recommend a product for the incredible commission but your audience has a bad experience with it, your credibility will be shot.
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.

Investing in coins and collectibles: Buffalo nickels and Spiderman comic books are good examples of coins and collectibles that can rise in value, and thus offer opportunity for passive income investors. You'll need to get up to speed on the value of any coin or collectible under consideration, but once you do so, you're on the way to price appreciation on a commodity you'll be paying a lower price to buy, and will garner a higher price when you sell.
Don't mistake passive income with zero work. It's still work, it's just that your income is not directly tied to the hours worked. Anyone who owns rental properties knows that it's considered passive income but there is quite a bit of work involved. The work is front heavy but if you are lucky, you can collect rental checks without incident for many months before having to do work.
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