The second category of passive income is drawing on sources that do not require capital to start, maintain, and grow. These are far better choices for those who want to start out on their own and build a fortune from nothing. They include assets you can create, such as a book, song, patent, trademark, Internet site, recurring commissions, or businesses that earn nearly infinite returns on equity such as a drop-ship e-commerce retailer that has little or no money tied up in operations but still turns a profit.

The authors found that those born to parents in the bottom 20 percent of earners (measured by permanent income, or the average labor market earnings over people’s working lives) had a 39 percent chance of remaining in the bottom 20 percent. Those born in the bottom 20 percent of the wealth distribution had a 27 percent chance of staying there. On the other end of the spectrum, those born in the top 20 percent of permanent income and wealth distributions had a 41 and 47 percent chance of staying there, respectively. (Figures showing these transitions are available in The Regional Economist article “Which Persists More from Generation to Generation—Income or Wealth?”)
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“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.”
Peerstreet – This residual income option is slightly different, helping you earn money using real estate backed loans instead of the property itself. By helping fund the loan, you’ll earn a percentage of the interest rate charged to the borrower. Most loans are short-term, generally lasting between 6 and 24 months. You can build your own portfolio by choosing the exact loans you’d like to fund, or Peerstreet will choose the loans for you. Again, you need to be an accredited investor, although the minimum investment here is just $1,000.
To create residual income, you need to create something that people will continue to buy on a regular basis long after you’ve created it. A house is a prime example of this as people will continue to pay rent for the right to live in the house. A business needs to have products that are sold over and over again rather than trading the business owner’s time for money.
Another benefit of residual income is that, if the income stream is large enough, one does not need the main focus of his life to be on making enough money to survive. Having a comfortable and continuous level of residual income opens up more opportunities to travel, look into other business opportunities, and even take the time to indulge in his hobbies.
There are three main categories of income: active income, passive income and portfolio income. Passive income has been a relatively loosely used term in recent years. Colloquially, it’s been used to define money being earned regularly with little or no effort on the part of the person receiving it. Popular types of passive income include real estate, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and dividend stocks. Proponents of earning passive income tend to be boosters of a work-from-home and be-your-own-boss professional lifestyle. The type of earnings people usually associate with this are gains on stocks, interest, retirement pay, lottery winnings, online work and capital gains. 
Residual income is different from a salary, or linear income, which is paid out strictly based on the number of hours a person works. Someone who works on a salary is often said to work “paycheck to paycheck.” This is because he pays all of his bills with his first paycheck and then must wait until he gets paid again to have more money. Ideally, someone will work hard building up a business so that he can enjoy the residual income once his goals have been met. Then he can work on additional projects while still earning money from his business.
Many people talk about passive income and create the impression that you never have to do anything to keep that income going. The truth is that you will normally have to keep your eye on things if you want it to run smoothly. For example Richard Branson doesn’t run any of the 400+ companies he started but he goes over the numbers each day to make sure they’re performing well and calls the CEO if there are any problems.
After these tenants move out, I'm thinking of just keeping the rental empty with furniture. It sounds stupid to give up $4,200 a month, but I really hate dealing with the homeowner association, move-in/move-out rules, and maintenance issues. Given that the condo doesn't have a mortgage and I have to pay taxes on some of the rental income, I'm not giving up that much. The condo can be a place for my sister, parents, or in-laws to crash when they want to stay in SF for longer than a week or two.
Why did P2P lending get a liquidity ranking of 6? It is quite possibly the most illiquid investment option you listed. You said you rank liquidity by “difficulty level of withdrawing your money without a massive penalty”, and for Lending Club notes, it’s not only difficult and extremely time consuming to sell all of your notes in their super illiquid market, but you would have to sell your notes at large losses to hope to get others interested in buying your notes. On top of that, it is impossible to withdraw your money any other way other than just waiting for interest/principal to pay off every month until maturity in 3 to 5 years. You can’t just one day tell Lending Club “I want to quit, please give me my money back.” One can even argue that it is less difficult to sell a home (in order to “withdraw” the money invested) than to withdraw all of their money from a P2P loan portfolio because it is very possible to sell a home before 3 to 5 years.
If an investor puts $500,000 into a candy store with the agreement that the owners would pay the investor a percentage of earnings, that would be considered passive income as long as the investor does not participate in the operation of the business in any meaningful way other than placing the investment. The IRS states, however, that if the investor did help manage the company with the owners, the investor's income could be seen as active since the investor provided "material participation." 

Thanks for writing this Mr. Samurai. I just got over the student loan hump but I feel pretty good about it at 27 having a graduate degree and being 100% debt free. Now that I’m on the other side it is good for my brain to absorb some of your knowledge regarding passive income investments. I love gleaning wisdom from older folks who have been there and done that. Mentors rock!


Investing your money is one of the oldest passive income strategies on the books. Investing in stocks (or funds of stocks) means that you are becoming a (very) partial owner in the company whose stock you own. When you purchase a stock, your expectation is that the value of the stock will either increase or decrease, and your goal is to buy low and sell high. (This is what everyone is shouting about on the floor of the NYSE in movies about the world of high finance).

*All Lending Club loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. The closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.
Venture debt ($12,240 a year): The first venture-debt fund has returned almost all my initial capital, so I decided to invest $200,000 in the second fund. I took a risk investing $150,000 in my friend's first fund, so I'm hoping there's less risk in the second fund, given he has four more years of experience on top of his 12-plus years of experience running a venture-debt portfolio for another company.

I personally don’t care about being seen as rich – I don’t need the fancy house or cars. I just want to know that I can give up some or all work whenever I’d like to, and spend that time with my family without any financial pressure. I remember reading somewhere that “wealth is measured in time, not dollars” – and I believe that to be totally true. If I ever got a tattoo, that phrase would be highly considered to end up somewhere on my body.
Active residual income is income that you would participate more directly in creating, like sales. Although the initial effort to create the income has already been exhausted, you would still be active in the creation of the funds, resolving customer issues, taking care of finances, making sure products are always in stock or available, and researching money saving methods. This is the type of thing that you have to actually participate in to make money. This does not necessarily mean that the number of hours you put in directly correlate to how much money is made, but it does mean that this type of residual income is not money that is going to be made while you sit at home and think about it.

If you’ve got a book you’re itching to write, you can still go with the traditional publishing route. (We published our first book using a traditional publisher.) Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, a publisher can help get your book into print and onto shelves in both online and traditional book stores. This is still a good route, although it may take more work and be more expensive than some other options.

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