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.
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.
If you can max out your 401k or max out your IRA and then save an additional 20%+ of your after-tax, after-retirement contribution, good things really start to happen. If one is looking for earlier financial independence, such as retiring in their 40s or early 50s, it may be a good idea to skew towards more after-tax savings and investments given one has to wait until 59.5 to withdraw from their 401k or IRA penalty-free.
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.
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.
Thanks for the great article…although I have to point out many of the items listed are not passive but active, such as selling bodily fluids, writing blogs or resumes, and collecting bottles and cans. To be truly passive, the income source must require no effort on your part (after initial setup). Real estate, dividends, P2P lending…these are truly passive income sources.
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. 
* I use Personal Capital to track all my finances in one place. It’s much easier to use their free software to follow 28 accounts on one platform than to log into various accounts to check my balances. They’ve also got great tools for x-raying your portfolio for excessive fees, recommending a more optimized asset allocation, and planning for retirement with their Retirement Planner.

It’s funny, Peter Lynch says before putting any money in the stock market, make sure you own real estate. It’s a rare investment that allows you to own an asset while borrowing a large portion of the value at an extremely favorable interest rate. However you are right, real estate investing does not offer passive income in the truest sense of the word. Great guide!
Bryan said, "People who have become very wealthy through business have gotten very good at leveraging their time in their pursuit of creating value. They've done that by first creating value, and then automating the process of creating value, so they can scale and provide even more value to more and more people. But it starts with the fact that they already understand how to create value. They understand it so well, that they're able to create that value and then automate and scale the process of creating more of it.
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. 

Add Leverage (Mortgage) and you greatly increase the ROI especially from the perspective of using Rents (other peoples money) to pay down the mortgage and increase your equity in the property over time. At this point then yes price appreciation is secondary bonus and we have an arguement of how and why Real Estate can be better than Growth Stocks in some scenarios and for some investors.
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.
All ideas take some amount of time and money to come to fruition. Some people have a lot of one of these, but not much of the other. A lot of successful ideas have started when one person had the resources that another did not. And many businesses have been started using 0% loans from credit cards to fund their concept and keep the business going until it achieved success.
This one may seem simple, but that’s only because it is. If you were to move your savings from a traditional, brick-and-mortar bank with a low-interest rate and into a high-yield savings account online, over time you can make a surprising amount of extra cash. Online banks are FDIC-insured just like the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, so your money is just as safe.
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For Tim, that was learning and writing a series of books, which he’s truly passionate about. For me, that’s traveling, learning, and working on startups that are “high risk” or have a long road to generating revenue. For you, maybe it’s spending time with your kids and not having to take overtime when it’s offered to you. In any case, the goal is to spend as little time as possible to cover your basic needs; if you want to spend more time to make more money, that’s always an option — but you want it to be an option, not a necessity.
One of the easiest ways to increase your passive income is to shift your savings to a bank that pays a higher yield on your savings — for example, Discover Bank and EverBank pay almost 1% for your money. Although it doesn’t sound like much (especially in this low interest environment), little things do add up and eventually interest rates will rise.
Ebooks are one of my favorite sources of passive income. Now, you can do this the simple way and just publish it on Amazon's KDP. Or, you can go all out and build yourself a book funnel. Book funnels are powerful, but they won't be fully passive. For example, if you do a free-plus-shipping offer for your ebook (converting it into a physical book), you'll need to create some one-time offers (i.e. extra training) and up-sells (i.e. an audiobook). But, a book funnel can be very powerful.
WordPress themes aren’t the only things for sale through the Envato Market. You can also sell stock photos through PhotoDune, stock footage through VideoHive, sound clips through AudioJungle, anything graphic related though GraphicRiver, web and app development resources through CodeCanyon, and 3D elements through 3dOcean. There are a huge amount of options here for anyone with the skills to create resources.
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.
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.
In Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup, a fantastic book about how today’s entrepreneurs and startup companies are approaching the way they create and innovate, Eric talks about how vital it is to use validated learning and scientific experimentation to be able to steer a company in the right direction. In other words, to use customer feedback and quantified data analysis (of real, non-vanity metrics) from a minimal viable product to make decisions and pivot a business one way or another.

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.


It is very important to understand that contacting a “professional” to learn how to do this only results in them trying to sell me crap properties (whether high end or low end). I’ve tried contacting realtors out of state, and they attempt to sell me crap or someone else’s problem. No one has a vested interest in actually helping someone or teaching them about how to get an out of state rental. very frustrating. I could go out tomorrow and buy a rental in my city, but that is the last place I want to own one. Anyone? Are there an real people on here?
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?
It’s been almost 10 years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good income stream online now. Financial Samurai has given me a purpose in early retirement. And, I’m having a ton of fun running this site as well! Here’s a real snapshot of a personal finance blogger who makes $150,000+ a year from his site and another $180,000 from various consulting opportunities due to his site.
You also get to see specific details about each loan, including what the borrower is using it for, the state they live in, how long the pay-off period is, what the monthly payments are, and what rate the borrower will pay. It helps you get a better picture of what type of risk you’re exposing yourself to, and you get to take more control over your investment.
I prefer assets that make me a high return for the lowest amount of work possible (semi-passive involvement). And assets that pay me in several unique ways. Cash flow is only one way RE makes money for me. I also get principal reductions, appreciation, tax advantages (depreciation), and I control the rental increases on a yearly basis. Plus a majority of the capital is provided by the secondary market on 30 year fixed low interest rate debt.
I think you should use Financial Samurai to raise your passive income. You’ve already proven that you writing 3 articles a week is enough to not only sustain the site but grow it. Why not have more guest writers post articles? Since you started with the extra post each week I’m guessing traffic is above your normal growth rate. Leverage that up with more posts and my bet traffic will continue to grow. https://j6p9k2g4.stackpathcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/26517147166_b9a3c48893_o.jpg
The terms on private money loans can also vary from very short (a couple of months or even weeks) to years. Once the money is loaned to an investor the passive income will come in as long as the investor can meet their obligations. The work with private money lending comes in the beginning when choosing a private money lender and if the loan ever goes into default.
Which all goes back to my point – since companies change in a lot of unpredictable ways, it makes more sense for passive income to just ride the market by investing in a Total Domestic Stock Market, Total Bond Market, and Total International index funds, with allocations that depend on your goals and time horizon. For income, withdraw 4% or less, depending on what research you believe, and you’ve got a pretty low risk strategy.

Finally, I imagine the biggest debate with my ranking is Creating Your Own Product as the #1 passive income source. If most people have never created their own product, then it’s easy to give it a thumbs down. There won’t be much complaint about Private Equity Investing being in last place because most people are not accredited investors. But given I believe that plenty of people can create their own product if they try, pushback is inevitable because a lot of people simply don’t try!
Another way to reduce the work needed when buying rental properties is to buy turn-key properties. Turn-key rentals are already repaired, already rented and already managed by a property manager. Buying a turn-key rental property is as easy as talking to a turn-key rental property about what they have in inventory, picking one and setting up closing. I would still complete due diligence on any turn-key rental property provider to make sure they are a good company. I am considering buying a turn-key property myself and I discuss the process here.
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.”
However, when you lack the money, you need time. You'll need to invest the upfront time now in order to reap the benefits of automatic income later. It just doesn't happen overnight. So don't expect it to. However, you can do this without quitting your day job. All it takes is some sincere effort over a consistent period, and voila! But, to get there, you'll need to consistently burn the midnight oil or get up at the crack of dawn. Your choice.
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.

Yes, good point about not blatantly copying other people’s hard work. I should have said in my original post that I would NEVER do that. I have eight years’ of University education behind me which resulted in three degrees, including a Masters. If I learned one thing at college, it is that plagiarism is, as you say, SO not cool. Not the done thing. I plan to give full attribution to the originating author and paste a link to their website on my website so my subscribers can follow up the data with the source if they choose to.


I just found your site & so far I like what I see. I am 50 years old & will be retiring at the end of Jan 2019. I turn 51 the following month. I will have a pension income of $60,000 per year & an additional $5,400 from a survivors benefit. I was able to save $200,000 in a deferred comp program through my employer & wish to know what to do to generate a passive income? I can leave it in the plan which will generate about 3.5% or invest it. My concern is the tax liability of taking out a large sum from that fund & leaving me less to invest. I do have an opportunity to invest in a bar/restaurant with family (my main concern) that currently generates $120,000 annually for an absentee owner. It would be a 3 way partnership if I did that. I do like your idea of creating my own product such a blog with a goal of $12,000 to $18,000 passive income I feel that may be my best option. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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