I will share what we did, because it’s an incredible success story. We used an existing tax loophole where if you sell your primary residence (after having lived there at least two years) you get to keep your profit tax-free. So, we stair-stepped. We bought house after house, at least two years apart, used the profit money to pay down on the next house (so on and so forth, yadda yadda) building up equity as we went along… and now, we own a $600,000 house debt-free. And now we are using our paid-off home as leverage to borrow money to buy commercial buildings to rent out. I like commercial because it’s a BUSINESS transaction… kids, pets, other wear and tear that you see with residential rentals is nonexistent. People take care of their business space much better than residential. You have to be in a good area for renting out commercial – a thriving business community – to make this work. But that’s how we “made it”, and though it took 15 years, we will have residual income to take care of us when we’re old enough to retire. People made fun of us for moving so much, but who’s laughing now? 😉 Oh, and our child only had to change schools once (and we wanted to anyway) because we stayed in the same general area as we moved around. We were careful not to disrupt his life too much.
* Freelance writing: Quality freelance writing takes tremendous effort. Ironically, the better the quality of your writing, the more you don’t want to freelance and just keep the articles for your own site. Freelancing is a great way to earn side income, however, it’s not really for me. I’ll probably take on one or two freelance jobs maximum per year and write no more than four articles a month elsewhere.
Real estate has another perk: Tax law in the US (and most countries) has been written by landowners. There are some ridiculous loopholes, like the ability to deduct expenses (and maybe even some interest) as a cost of doing business. Also, you can sell the property and buy another one without paying taxes. I won’t go into detail here, but Real Estate is my favorite form of passive income, and it makes up over 50% of my portfolio. See the next section for a breakdown.
Your best deals, but the most work, will come from properties not formerly listed as for sale. Contacting the owners of abandoned or run-down properties might uncover a deal without the hassle of competition from other investors. Once you have the address of a property, find your county assessor’s page on the internet for ownership information. The assessor’s page will have other useful information like previous sales and house characteristics.
Of course, you can make honst money in Internet info-products, or affiliate marketing, or other such areas where people tend to get drawn to "passive income" fantasies. But, to make real money over the sustainable long-haul, you must treat these like any other business. In other words, you must provide real value to real customers with a real need.
Inspired by you, I started a tax/personal finance a month ago. I figured if it works out, it will create a good side income for me. If not, at least I can use the blog to build my brand as a tax lawyer. Other than that, my current investment portfolio is heavily focused on index funds because of its historical performance and tax & cost efficiency. Right now my dividends income every year is about $14,000. I also have a good amount of unrealized capital gains every year from my investment, though I don’t count the capital gains as my passive income as they are paper gains, at least for now.
According to Uncle Sam, you need to be "materially involved" in an enterprise to earn active income. With passive income, it's just the opposite, as the IRS deems you to be earning passive income if you're not materially involved with a profit-making enterprise. By and large, expect income to be taxable if you are engaged in a passive income enterprise. You will need to report earnings to the IRS.
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.
What is refer-a-friend? Essentially, you make money for using a service and telling others how great it is. Most of the times, you’ll get a unique link that you can share with friends directly or throughout social media. Whenever anybody clicks your link and signs up and/or makes a purchase, you’ll get a bonus. The bonus can be in the form of cold hard cash or an account credit.
Creating passive income is the key to retiring, especially retiring early. If you want to retire early with the stock market you will have to save a huge amount of money, because that money has to last so long and retirement calculators depend on you using your investment to fund your life. With passive income you will have income coming in as long as you own the investment, without every eating away at the principle invested. Creating passive income may take more work than investing in the stock market, but I think it is well worth the extra effort!