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Immediately after I graduated from business school, a lot of people began asking me what I would do, or if I’d found a job. The answer was almost always “working a few hours a week on some side projects until re-launching my startup.” Whereas this may sound like an unfortunate or undesirable outcome, really was not so bad… My gross income then — without really “working” on anything — was higher than it was when I was working 80 hour weeks running a $3M/year eCommerce company. Sure, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was all part of a strategy that would eventually lead me towards “accidentally” building a 7-figure media business that runs whether or not I show up to work this month. Let me explain…

To your point about Municipal Bonds, my concern is tax reform. While everything is mostly being worked behind closed doors (and likely wont ever see the light of day). There is still the chance they propose to limit the amount of the tax free nature of these bonds. While I dont sen panic in the streets, I do see a scenario where bond prices get additional pressure because municipalities have to increase rates due to people putting their money to work elsewhere.

P2P lending is the practice of loaning money to borrowers who typically don’t qualify for traditional loans. As the lender you have the ability to choose the borrowers and are able to spread your investment amount out to mitigate your risk. The most popular peer to peer lending platform is Lending Club. You can read our full lending club review here: Lending Club Review.
* 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.

So many readers have asked me “How do you invest your money?”.  And so I’ve shared my thoughts on building a smartly diversified portfolio for long term returns.  Of course, this is great when you have a large capital base and 30-40 year time horizon.  For example if you are compounding at just 5-10% but doing it over 40 years and from a large starting base, plus you are topping it up monthly with new funds, you can enjoy ridiculous returns.


Affiliate marketing is a simple way to earn a bit of extra money from your personal website or blog. In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is simply including special links to some products or services on your website and in your content. When your readers click those links and make a purchase, you earn a fixed percentage commission from that sale. Most publishers sign up with affiliate networks that connect them with brands seeking for an affiliate. The same networks will also monitor your commissions and schedule your payouts.
There is a big misconception about rentals & people thinking that it’s passive.. rental income is far from passive. Many people flock to buy rentals as a way to “retire rich” but realize shortly thereafter that it really isn’t that easy or true.. Ask me how i know. I have bought a lot of houses from tired and burnout landlords. Luckily, there are better options out there. 

I use a property manager to handle my rental properties. Most months, my only involvement is checking my bank account to verify I received my checks, then making a payment to the mortgage company. If you don’t have enough money to buy a rental property, you can get started investing in real estate by buying a REIT stock or investing through platforms that let you buy a partial interest in a building.
Another great way to get started is to identify an area of interest you have. For instance, Robert Duff has been successful in building passive income by selling books on Amazon. Then, go out and start talking to people. Ask them, “What are you struggling with right now? What are your biggest pains? What’s something you wish existed that doesn’t?” That’ll give you some ideas about where to get started.
Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, which is launching from Penguin/Portfolio in September. It’s a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital at any age. Michael sends manifestos, recommendations, tips, and other exclusive content to his private email list, which you can join at www.ellsberg.com. Connect with him on Twitter @MichaelEllsberg and on Facebook.
You may not have all the expenses listed below, for example if the tenant pays utilities or if you manage the property yourself. This is just a list of common expenses. It is extremely important that you build out an estimate on your own before you purchase a property. Most of the information can be gotten by calling around or researching expenses in the area.
"What makes business work is creating value. If you're going into the business with the intention of not creating value, but of having it magically provide money for you, then you often make really bad choices. The business that you're investing in or creating doesn't tend to be creating value for its customers or for anyone. So it doesn't tend to spit off the cash you're hoping it will. So many times I've seen people pursue passive income, and end up having active losses instead. They just spend a lot of time and money trying to push responsibilities off on other people and having it not work."

I enjoy how you lay out real numbers. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. While you admit that you are somewhat conservative, I think the $1M in CD’s is just too conservative. Assuming you don’t need the cash flow now (which you say you just save anyways) then all that could be invested for potentially higher returns. For example, what if you bought San Francisco real estate along the way instead of CD’s. Or, an SP500 Index fund. I bet your average return would have been higher than 3.75%. Sure you could lose it, but the point is if you don’t need the cash flow now, you should try to increase that nut as high as possible until the day you actually need it. Your nut could be $5M right now if you had invested in asset classes other than CD’s for the last 14 years. Don’t get me wrong, you have done far better than me, but I guess I would take a little more risk if you don’t rely on that cash flow.
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.
Thank you for sharing your article! You did a great job saving and putting your money to work for you. Like you, I share the same financial dream of having 150-200k in passive income and traveling the world stress-free! :) Right now I’m saving about 80-90% of my active income and put it toward ETF funds and value growth stocks because I’m seeking capital appreciation. And I can tolerate a lot of risks because I’m still in my early 20’s. By the time I reach 30 something I’ll start looking into blue chips stocks that pay dividends and REIT. So I want to be where you are by that time lol. Anyways, that the plan and I’m sticking to it. Good luck on achieving your financial dream!
While Im working on developing my husbands web presence: I cant seem to make a decision for my own business between becoming a social media consultant OR doing the niche website biz. Niche webstie biz is more appealing to me. It would be great if I could help to make that final decision. I love all the options you mentioned. All very good. Apps biz takes upfront cash flow for sure. https://motiveinmotion.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Passive-Income.png
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.

When a taxpayer records a loss on a passive activity, only passive activity profits can have their deductions offset instead of the income as a whole. It would be considered prudent for a person to ensure all the passive activities were classified that way so they can make the most of the tax deduction. These deductions are allocated for the next tax year and are applied in a reasonable manner that takes into account the next year's earnings or losses.
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