We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.
The age old argument of total return versus income has been, incorrectly imo, categorized as an either or proposition. We are going to do both. Right now I have a lot cash in an on line money market. I also have investments in 2 passive Index funds in a taxable account. We then have substantial 401ks/IRA’s which we won’t touch for at least 10 years. My wife will continue to max out her sep and we will continue to invest in the index funds although with a smaller amount. We have already factored that in. I looked at how to cut into the monthly deficit. Here is what I observed.
The most liquid of the private investments are investing in equity or credit hedge funds, real estate funds, and private company funds. There will usually be 6 month – 3 year lockup periods. The least liquid of the private investments are when you invest directly into private companies yourself. You might not be able to get your money out for 5-10 years, depending on the success of the company and upcoming liquidity events.
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At some point in life, passive income becomes the ‘Holy Grail’ for every investor. For some, passive income strategies have an impact early on. For others, it comes mid-life – in an effort to prepare for the unexpected. Then there are those that don’t start pursuing it until retirement is in sight, and panic sets in. Unfortunately, there are so many myths surrounding passive income that individuals can take detours down the wrong rabbit holes for years. So what are some of the misconceptions about passive income that need to be busted?
“The biggest surprise is real estate being second to last on my Passive Income Ranking List because I’ve written that real estate is my favorite investment class to build wealth. Real estate doesn’t stack up well against the other passive income sources due to the lack of liquidity and constant maintenance of tenants and property. The returns can be huge due to rising rental income AND principal over time, much like dividend investing. If you are a “proactive passive income earner” like myself, then real estate is great.”

Dividend stocks tend to be more mature companies that are past their high growth stage. Utilities, telecoms, and financial sectors tend to make up the majority of dividend paying companies. Tech, Internet, and biotech, on the other hand, tend not to pay any dividends because they are reinvesting most of their retained earnings back into their company for growth.

Residual income is calculated as net income less a charge for the cost of capital. The charge is known as the equity charge and is calculated as the value of equity capital multiplied by the cost of equity or the required rate of return on equity. Given the opportunity cost of equity, a company can have positive net income but negative residual income.