One thing I’ve realized is this: It’s FAR easier to work for an employer than it is to develop durable passive income streams for the average person. Why? Because working for an employer in a place that “needs” you means that it’s possible to show up and give a 50% effort. You can show up, put in your time, go home, have a beer, watch TV, and rinse and repeat all without REALLY having to put in the effort.
I wish I had more time to put into real estate. Given the run up since 2012, I may even be interested in selling my condo that I currently rent out. I need to get it appraised to really see what it’s worth, but I think conservatively it’s gone up ~50%, although rent is probably only up ~10% or so. I am bullish on rents going up in the future… mostly in line with inflation, or perhaps even slightly faster due to constricted credit and personal income growth which should provide a solid supply of renters. At this point, I just don’t want to manage the property. I’ll probably look into a property manager as my time is likely worth turning it into a nearly passive investment.
When I started building my architecture-related business in 2008, I made my first dollar through advertising. I’d spent a lot of time and money building the site and getting traffic. Then one day I threw an ad on the site one day, and I made $1.18. Sure, I could find that much under my couch cushions—but that’s not the point! The point is that I was able to build something online, put an ad up, and make money without having to do anything. I learned it was possible, and it motivated me to move forward.
Passive income is attractive because it frees up your time so you can focus on the things you actually enjoy. If a doctor wants to earn the same amount of money and enjoy the same lifestyle year after year, they must continue to work the same number of hours at the same pay rate—or more, to keep up with inflation. Although such a career can provide a very comfortable lifestyle, it requires far too much sacrifice unless you truly enjoy the daily grind of your chosen profession. Additionally, once you decide to retire, or find yourself unable to work any longer, your income will cease to exist unless you have some form of passive income.
Money from dividends, for example, are taxed at a lower rate than money from a job. A business owner who works in the company she or he founded would have to pay more self-employment payroll taxes compared to someone who merely had a passive interest in the same limited liability company who would pay only income taxes. In other words, the same income earned actively would be taxed at a higher rate than if it were earned passively.
There was a time when CDs would produce a respectable 4%+ yield. Nowadays, you’ll be lucky to find a 5-7 year CD that provides anything above 2.5% The great thing about CDs is that there are no income or net worth minimums to invest, unlike many alternative investments, which require investors to be accredited. Anybody can go to their local bank and open up a CD of their desired duration. Furthermore, a CD is FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per individual, and $500,000 per joint account.
With $200,000 a year in passive income, I would have enough income to provide for a family of up to four in San Francisco, given we bought a modest home in 2014. Now that we have a son, I'm happy to say that $200,000 indeed does seem like enough, especially if we can win the public-school lottery to avoid paying $20,000 to $50,000 a year in private-school tuition.
Software is one of the most lucrative passive income streams but most online entrepreneurs shy away from it, mainly because of the technical aspect that is involved. The truth is that you don't need programming skills to build a software; the whole process can be outsourced fairly easily. You do need to know how to pick a good developer and, of course, have a winning idea that customers are willing to pay for.
However, you should pick a niche and blog about that. If you're launching a money related blog, maybe it'll be about how to make money in real estate or simply how to make money online. Pick the niche and stick to it. If it's a diet and fitness related blog, maybe the niche is the Ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet or some other form of diet or fitness.
* 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.