One of the things I'm surprised your article doesn't mention is the tax advantages of this type of investment. The depreciation and rehab costs (purchasing distressed properties) can be huge deductions to ones income taxes, which none of the others have. Then, along with the appreciation of real estate, this passive income investment outperforms the notion of maxing out my 401k as well.
If you're looking to get started in real estate, look at a crowd funding solution like RealtyMogul. It works similar to LendingClub - you commit as little as $5,000 towards a property. When the property is fully funded, you become an owner, and will receive your share of the earnings and appreciation in the property.  Check out RealtyMogul to learn more. 
There is a specific tax definition of passive income, known as “passive activity” to the Internal Revenue Service. Passive income is any income you make without actively working or are materially involved. The IRS defines it as any rental activity or any business in which the taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Nonpassive activities, or active activities, are businesses in which the taxpayer works on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.

Accretion/dilution analysis Adjusted present value Associate company Business valuation Conglomerate discount Cost of capital Weighted average Discounted cash flow Economic value added Enterprise value Fairness opinion Financial modeling Free cash flow Free cash flow to equity Market value added Minority interest Modigliani–Miller theorem Net present value Pure play Real options Residual income Stock valuation Sum-of-the-parts analysis Tax shield Terminal value Valuation using multiples
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If you're looking to get started in real estate, look at a crowd funding solution like RealtyMogul. It works similar to LendingClub - you commit as little as $5,000 towards a property. When the property is fully funded, you become an owner, and will receive your share of the earnings and appreciation in the property.  Check out RealtyMogul to learn more. 
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