Question: You mention receiving $200k of passive income a year, but your chart shows half of that coming from real estate holdings, and reading between the lines it appears that you hold mortgages against those holdings. Then you conclude that $200k/yr of passive income should be enough to live comfortably anywhere in the world. So are you subtracting your real estate expenses (taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, maintenance, remote property management company fees, etc.) when you report your passive income from those properties? Really I think it’s the net (after taxes and everything) that tells us what is left over to “spend” on living, right? When I set up my spreadsheet to retire early at age 47, I calculated the after-tax income I would need to live. Then I compared that to my income streams (estimating tax on the taxable income streams) to measure the surplus/shortfall. Also some good advice from GoCurryCracker: If you can minimize your taxes so you’re in the 15% tax bracket, you can possibly receive tax-free long term capital gains. I agree with your philosophy that time is more important than money as we age. I am not sure I agree with a philosophy that is fixated on needing such a large income, and would rather minimize taxes if it’s all the same on the happiness meter. Furthermore, having 20 plus income sources in the name of diversification adds stress and requires more management (TIME!). I think this is fine for those of us while young, as we have the energy to work hard. But as time becomes more important, the extra headache of managing, planning, and buying/selling our assets becomes a resented hindrance on par with the resentment we felt when working for an employer and fighting traffic each day to go to a job we hated. Every thing we own in actuality owns us, by virtue of its demands on our time and affections, and that includes investments. It also includes our home, and is a good reason for downsizing. As long as we have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our bodies, what more do we need? I think we need to consider freeing ourselves from the weight of the chains of managing too many ventures. Personally, I plan on investing in no more than 5 simultaneous ventures ever, with the exception of some IRAs that I just plan to let sit for the next 20 years (and therefore no thought or anxiety required).
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.
I’m a disabled Veteran, although looking at me you couldn’t tell, who is a stay at home husband. I help other veterans with their applications for benefits to the VA when I can but some of these vets and myself struggle at times with maintaining steady employment. I would be especially grateful if I could trade emails to coresond with you in hopes to learn a bit more about passive income. I would like to utilize this for myself and be able to mentor other vets on this process. I do understand this is NOT a get rich quick thing, but a slow and steady build up. Thank you for your time.
We usually think of Craigslist as a place to buy and trade random stuff, but Craigslist can actually be a great opportunity to sell your services online to an active and engaged audience. Simply check the “jobs” section and “gigs” section for specific cities and see if anything matches your skills. The great thing about Craigslist is that it is one of the highest converting traffic sources on the internet (think active buyers) which can mean more opportunities at higher pay.
In real estate, your passive opportunities are in private lending and rental properties. Private lending commonly involves lending funds to a real estate investor or business in exchange for a set return and length of time. (Full disclosure: I am co-partner of a turnkey investment company.) Turnkey rental properties allow the investor to be as hands-off as they like. This means a turnkey company purchases, rehabs, tenants and manages the property. To truly make this a passive investment, turnkey companies do all the work for you.
I’m somewhat embarassingly reminded of Harry Potter and the concept of “Horcruxes” here, in that the goal is to find a piece of your value, and impart it into an inanimate object or product, Voldemort Style (did I really just make a Harry Potter reference?) Anyways, whatever. If you want passive income, you have to think about the value you rent out or own. Or, you need to buy something valuable that other people would like to use (I love the idea of a 3D Printer). Then put it into something that can be sold or rented more passively. Maybe you have a car that sits in the driveway, or a vacation home that is empty half the time. Maybe you just have some funny jokes you could put into a YouTube video and run ads on. At some point, you have to “transfer” the value into something that can work for you — that something is an asset.
Get paid to take surveys at home by signing up with one or more survey websites. All you do is answer questions and voilà, you get paid. Another way to earn extra income is to participate in focus groups. Companies hire focus groups as a way to test out a new product before it hits the market. Why? Because they need to make sure it will make money; they want a high return on their investment. Surveys and focus groups may not make you a millionaire overnight, but you can earn hundreds of dollars each month by giving your opinion on products and services.
I had the same experience when my name’s frequency on the call schedule dropped for reasons that no one would discuss and were not easily discerned except by those in the know (who were staying mum). I went and found another job…. and I wish that I had found something with passive income – it’s been several years now that I’ve been working 2-3 part time jobs and I’m trying to figure out what my other thing is going to be… still working on that, but I am thankful that there are others out there discussing side gigs and alternatives to medicine.
Secondly – and this is just quibbling – I’d change that risk score. The risk of private equity is incredibly high and should be considerably riskier than bonds! You are providing a typically very large amount of capital to one business that you agree to have no control over, and the success or failure of that business over a locked, predefined term determines your return. And in the few deals I’ve negotiated for clients, my experience has been that there are often management fees, performance fees, etc. that may cut into your potential gains, anyway. You’re putting a lot of eggs in one basket, and promising an omelet or two to the management no matter what. You really need to be confident that you found the next Uber before you take this giant risk!
I just wanted to say how nice it is to see such a positive exchange between strangers on the Internet. Seriously, not only was this article (list) motivating and well-drafted, the tiny little community of readers truly were a pleasant crescendo I found to be the cause of an inward smile. Thank you, everyone, and good luck to you all with your passive income efforts!! 🙂
It’s obvious that stocks outperform real estate in terms of capital gains, but I would like to see S&P compare to Real Estate in SF, Manhattan, LA. Our house in NC was $80,000 20 years ago. It’s only $150,000 now. Same house in Santa Monica went from $200,000 to $1.8 million. People who happen to bought real estate in major metropolitan would have a natural positive association with real estate investment.
You know the fantasy: write some ebook (or better yet, hire freelancers in Mumbai to research and write it for you at $.20/word!) on some niche topic, set up AdWords and Facebook campaigns targeted to the right keywords (you can hire those Mumbai guys to do your keyword research too), put up a cheap landing page (with copy written by... guess who!), press "Go!" on the PPC campaign, and voilà. . . just wait for the money to roll in while you sleep!
You must sacrifice the pleasures of today for the freedom you will earn tomorrow. In my 20s, I shared a studio with my best friend from high school and drove beater cars worth less than 10% of my annual gross income. I'd stay until after 7:30 p.m. at work in order to eat the free cafeteria food. International vacations were replaced with staycations since work already sent me overseas two to four times a year. Clothes were bought at thrift shops, of course.
Even if each patron only contributes a very small amount each month, it can still be a huge source of income. Take a look at the Patreon page for Kinda Funny, an internet video company. They have over 6,209 patrons which means an average of just $3 a month would be a monthly income of almost $19,000 – plus they get cheerleaders that are always happy to spread the word on their brand.
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.
Blog posts, repackaged, I believe have been ‘done’ a little already, in terms of eBook’s / Books already. Even Mr. Ferriss did it in the ‘expanded’ edition of 4HWW – a lot of the content was added from the most popular stuff on his blog, which I thought was a bit of a swizz. But, it WAS and IS great content, so if you weren’t following his blog it was well worth the money, for sure.
In order to build an audience, you need to have a platform. You need to have something worth following and sharing; something that’s valuable to others. And that, of course, takes time. That’s not to say you can’t build a huge audience in a short amount of time. But as much as we hear about the people who’ve succeeding at doing this, we don’t hear about the millions of others who are struggling every day to get just a few more fans and followers.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites offering users the ability to get paid for taking surveys online. Same as with Cashback sites, if you encounter a survey site where sign up if not free, simply avoid it. I have not checked it myself, but a few online entrepreneurs suggest trying toluna.com. Also, you might want to try Cash Crate - In addition to getting paid for taking surveys, they offer cachbacks and other quick online income perks.


Truebill is an app that helps you save money by identifying recurring subscriptions and other bills and helping you cut costs by negotiating better rates and fees. One of their partnerships is with Acradia Power, which has the potential to save you up to 30% on your electric bill. It searches for better power rates in areas where competition is allowed, and it locks in the better prices for you.

1 Would you choose WordPress as an easy-start blogging/website content management system? The only thing I know about it is that it exists, I’ve been told by friends who have WP it’s easy to set-up and maintain and I’ve since read lots of info on the Net which reiterates this claim. I believe I read in a reply you wrote to another community member who commented on another post of yours you recommend WP. Is this correct, Chris? Or did I just make that up?
I had to get out. I actually had this random Facebook ad come up in my news feed (go figure) and it eventually led me to a webinar that taught on how to start an email marketing business (which is, by the way, the most profitable form of affiliate marketing – or ANY marketing for that matter). I listened through the whole 2 hours, completely mesmerized. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to be focusing on to help my family out of the pit of debt we were in and into a world free of financial stress. I didn’t know if it would actually work, but eventually it lead to EXCESS income!
But when so many turn down leasing one and one-half acre for one Wind Turbine for each 80 acres, that lease certainly does not materially affect the rest of the Farm or Ranch grazing pasture and the lease pays much more than the farm crow or grazing pasture lease, just because some lawyer said the lease was too long: 30 years plus 30 year option = 60 years, and the wind turbine company has selling production/electricity contracts for the next 150 years – which is needed to obtain financing!
Based on my initial experience of passive income, I feel real that real estate is best vehicle to build long-term investment. I live in Los Angeles and was able to cash flow my first rental property. What are you thoughts about starting out to build a passive income portfolio? I have utilized Lendingclub, online savings, and a small dividend/bond portfolio.
That is a nice list of passive income sources. Actually, the most up-to-date list of dividend growth stocks is the list of dividend champions, maintained by Dave Fish. The list of dividend aristocrats is incomplete at best. For example, the dividend champions list has over 100 companies that have managed to increase dividends each year for at least 25 years in a row. The list of dividend aristocrats has no more than 50 – 60.
You can find dividend stocks using Google Finance Stock Screener which is free to use. Set the search criteria for the P/E Ratio, and Dividend yield (shown as a percentage) criteria. You can set minimum and maximum values; in the dividend yield box, set it between 2 and 100. This will search for stocks that pay dividends worth between 2-100% of the current stock price.

Non-fiction e-books that educate your potential audience on specific topics like finance, online marketing, and business are going to make you more money than fiction books. Of course, there are always exceptions and you could write the next Harry Potter book, but if you want to create some residual income opportunities quickly, I would suggest you go for what sells first!


Betterment – Betterment was the first robo-advisor to launch, almost ten years ago. They’ve automated the entire investing process, so all you have to do is watch your portfolio of assets grow (over the long run, of course). They do charge a .25% annual fee of your account total, so if you’ve got $100,000 that’s being managed by Betterment, you’ll pay just over $20 per month.
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.
Hi Sam! I loved your sentence, “There’s so much information in my head that I need to write it down or else I might explode.” That’s exactly how I feel! I never thought of myself as a writer, and especially not a blogger, but recently I’ve started dabbling in it and it feels so nice to get everything out! I’m dedicated to helping others succeed with personal finances, and there are plenty of “how-to” sites, but it’s important to get people thinking and motivated to prepare, plan, and save!
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