So many great tips in this big post, thanks! I think it’s so true that people should focus on the things they do well at and are interested in. And yes save, save, save in the beginning and throughout. I have several interest and dividend earning investments and am looking to expand further. Diversification is a great goal for all of us so we can avoid having all our eggs in one basket.
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.
This world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the good people that often act in irrational and/or criminally wrongdoing ways within the confines of their individual minds, core or enterprise groups, but because of the good people that don’t do anything about it (like reveal the truth through education like Financial Samauri is doing!). Albert Einstein and Art Kleiner’s “Who Really Matters.”
Once your audience has grown and you have validation that you’re offering them value, there are many ways to create passive income. You could sell digital products like ebooks or courses, take up affiliate marketing in which you promote other company’s products and earn a commission when you sell that item to your audience, build a community and charge people to be a part of it, create software and sell that, among other avenues. Ask your audience directly what would serve them best, or look at what they’re saying on Twitter, Facebook or other websites, to find out what problems they have and how you could help solve them.
I think the holy grail of financial freedom is having so many passive income. This way you will never worry about your financial needs because everything is taken care of your assets. You will have all the your time in the world and visit all places you dream about. You have your time and money. This is the dream of most people which only few ever achieved.

Though it can take a while to build up enough cash to put a 20% down payment on an investment property (the typical lender minimum), they can snowball fairly quickly. The key here is to correctly project income and expenses in order to calculate cash flow (the free cash you can put in your pocket after all associated property expenses have been paid). However you have to be sure to include the cost of a property manager in your calculations unless you want to manage the property yourself. Even with a property manager, you may be required to make large repair decisions every now and then – so while this is not a 100% passive activity, you are not directly trading your time for money like traditional employment.
The idea behind cashback is simple: you get rewarded for purchasing or using products you plan to buy anyway. Cashback sites pay you when you click through them, go to retailers, and spend. For example, check out eBates.com - There are over 2,000 stores to choose from including Walmart, Target, Sears, Calvin Klien, and others. You also get a $10 gift card after your first $25 purchase. Sign up is free. (If you encounter a cashback site where it’s not, avoid it.
At age 55, I own high-end rental properties (near the beach) and commercial buildings servicing the medical industry. I was widely criticized during my career for not living up to my income; that is, buying big homes with many fancy cars. I married a great woman who understood that saving and investing today meant a better lifestyle and more freedom tomorrow. Our passive income is half of my active income from sales, but my net worth has increased substantially. We are both happier and healthier than we were in the high-stress pressure cooker of franchise sales. The naysayers have become converts to the concept of passive income, but they have locked themselves into a “big hat, no cattle” lifestyle. It has been a great ride!
Your articles are so in-depth and helpful, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I am a 22-yr old finishing my last semester of college, studying Computer Science and Psychology. I’m in a really good place with my finances (2k savings, no student debt, only expenses essentially rent, groceries, and utilities) and I want to get ahead financially so I can pay my parents back and save up a lot.
Brian had found a huge need for web design in the restaurant and food truck space. After getting tired of working with client after client, he decided to turn his service-based business into a product-based one. He made his services more standardized and productized. He eliminated all his client work and created templates and products to serve that market instead. And it’s been going great for him.
I wish I had more time to put into real estate. Given the run up since 2012, I may even be interested in selling my condo that I currently rent out. I need to get it appraised to really see what it’s worth, but I think conservatively it’s gone up ~50%, although rent is probably only up ~10% or so. I am bullish on rents going up in the future… mostly in line with inflation, or perhaps even slightly faster due to constricted credit and personal income growth which should provide a solid supply of renters. At this point, I just don’t want to manage the property. I’ll probably look into a property manager as my time is likely worth turning it into a nearly passive investment.
For those willing to take on the task of managing a property, real estate can be a powerful semi-passive income stream due to the combination of rental and principal value appreciation. But to generate passive income from real estate, you either have to rent out a room in your house, rent out your entire house and rent elsewhere (seems counterproductive), or buy a rental property. It’s important to realize that owning your primary residence means you are neutral the real estate market. Renting means you are short the real estate market, and only after buying two or more properties are you actually long real estate.
Private money investing involves one investor with money, lending that money to another investor who needs the money. With real estate most private money is used to buy rental properties, fix and flips or even used by turn-key companies to fund their properties until they are sold to an investor. Private money usually is secured with a Deed of Trust against real estate, which provides more security than investing in the stock market. Returns on private money can be four percent or fifteen percent depending on the relationship between the investors and the risk involved.
Another way to generate passive income is to invest and be a silent partner in a business. This is very risky, but with risk comes the potential for high returns. For example, several years ago both Lyft and Uber were looking for private investors to invest in their companies. Today, they are worth billions - but you as an investor would only reap that benefit if they go public via an IPO, or get acquired. So, it's risky.
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.

Invest in a business as a silent partner. A silent partner is an inactive investor in a business. That is, they contribute capital to start the business, but don't actually make any business decisions and leave the management of the business up to the active partners. In turn, they receive a portion of the business's profits. In this way, you have the potential to earn regular, sizable payouts from simply making an initial investment.

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. 

When you read these stories you get inspired!  Not just in a “Oh, if he can do it, so can I” way, but in a “What he did to GMAT prep, I could do for management consulting case interviews” kind of way.  Hello derivational ideas!!  It shouldn’t surprise you then, that 88 Successful Passive Income Case Studies may just be the most popular article on this site.
However, you should pick a niche and blog about that. If you're launching a money related blog, maybe it'll be about how to make money in real estate or simply how to make money online. Pick the niche and stick to it. If it's a diet and fitness related blog, maybe the niche is the Ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet or some other form of diet or fitness.
But first, let’s about talk passive income! What is passive income? There are many different definitions out there, but mine goes something like this: Passive income is all about building online businesses that can work for you, that allow you to generate income, and grow and scale, without a real-time presence. In other words, you don’t trade time for money. You build something up front that can continue to work for you over time.
To start your affiliate marketing journey, make sure you sign up for my Affiliate Marketing Masterclass, which will walk you through five steps to finally begin generating an additional passive income stream using authentic affiliate marketing strategies I’ve used myself. Click the link below to sign up for the next Affiliate Marketing Masterclass:
This can be a little easier said than done, but if you have a large social media following, you can definitely earn money promoting a product or advertising for a company. You can even combine this with different marketing campaigns if you are an influencer and have your own blog (advertisement + affiliate income). This is how many bloggers make money! Again, it is not 100% passive but once set up correctly and then scaled, can be surprisingly lucrative.
Nobody gets early FI investing in bonds, CD’s, or even stocks unless they make a huge income or are extremely frugal or a combination of both. Paper assets just don’t provide enough returns. Business income can be great but it is typically not as semi-passive as I would like and there is a relatively high failure rate. That is if you can monetize an ideal to begin with. RE investing needs to be higher ranked IMO as a way that the “average guy” can become FI.
This was a very inspirational article! I too spent 20+ years in a high-stress career selling a high-end product under a 100 percent commission plan; that is, no salary! I realized, after racking up millions of frequent flyer miles, that there had to be a better and less-stressful way of making a living. My goal was to design my own lifestyle free of corporate shackles, which required a pre-determined amount of passive income.
I will share what we did, because it’s an incredible success story. We used an existing tax loophole where if you sell your primary residence (after having lived there at least two years) you get to keep your profit tax-free. So, we stair-stepped. We bought house after house, at least two years apart, used the profit money to pay down on the next house (so on and so forth, yadda yadda) building up equity as we went along… and now, we own a $600,000 house debt-free. And now we are using our paid-off home as leverage to borrow money to buy commercial buildings to rent out. I like commercial because it’s a BUSINESS transaction… kids, pets, other wear and tear that you see with residential rentals is nonexistent. People take care of their business space much better than residential. You have to be in a good area for renting out commercial – a thriving business community – to make this work. But that’s how we “made it”, and though it took 15 years, we will have residual income to take care of us when we’re old enough to retire. People made fun of us for moving so much, but who’s laughing now? 😉 Oh, and our child only had to change schools once (and we wanted to anyway) because we stayed in the same general area as we moved around. We were careful not to disrupt his life too much.
Another way to reduce the work needed when buying rental properties is to buy turn-key properties. Turn-key rentals are already repaired, already rented and already managed by a property manager. Buying a turn-key rental property is as easy as talking to a turn-key rental property about what they have in inventory, picking one and setting up closing. I would still complete due diligence on any turn-key rental property provider to make sure they are a good company. I am considering buying a turn-key property myself and I discuss the process here.
Who cares? I don’t care one bit about building a “successful company” with most of my passive projects. That’s for my active projects — and I’ve done that when I converted them into active projects. For passive income, I can build products and automated services that are useful enough that people want to buy and use them. My Magento modules and Udemy course had 5 star ratings despite being passive. I knew back then that I could probably sell 2x as many copies of each if I made it my full time job — but I chose note to. I realized that if I could have more fun, get more fulfillment, and make more money out of other passive activities, and that’s why I don’t care that my passive businesses are small and nichey. Again, though, converting one of them into an active business has made it much more successful — so I would just remind you that they aren’t mutually exclusive, and if anything, having a Passive Income side business or 2 let’s you try out a few different waters before you dive in to any one.
No argument here. It’s not for everybody. Just like you can’t imagine taking risks or finding the energy to be creative after you get home from work, I can’t imagine trading 40% of my waking life for money, leaving me with no time to actually spend the money I made. Even when building startups, I believe that I’m trading time for asset creation (which is why I still receive checks every month from my last startup). Nothing against you if 9–5 is how you choose to live, and in fact, I’m very happy for you if it makes you happy. Just know that you have a choice!
One of the easiest ways to get exposure to dividend stocks is to buy ETFs like DVY, VYM, and NOBL or index funds. You can also pay an algorithmic advisor like Wealthfront to automatically invest your money for you at a low fee. In the long run, it is very hard to outperform any index, therefore, the key is to pay the lowest fees possible while being invested in the market. Wealthfront charges $0 in fees for the first $15,000 and only 0.25% for any money over $10,000. Invest your idle money cheaply, instead of letting it lose purchasing power due to inflation. The key is to invest regularly.
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.
A perfect example of the Active Problem Solving + Automation concept is in my online courses I’ve created over the years, or my free webinars I’ve created more recently Each of my online courses and webinars are targeted to help people with specific problems, whether that’s in the area of affiliate marketing, podcasting, building a brand, and so forth. I am always improving upon the courses, but they are also evergreen for my audience.
Now I’ve been using Swagbucks for a while and have found the money works out to just under $2 an hour so this isn’t something that’s going to make you rich. You’d have to work 2,500 hours to make $5,000 so that’s about three and a half months, non-stop. The thing with Swagbucks though is you can do it when you’re doing something else so I flip through surveys and other stuff while I’m cooking dinner or flipping channels.
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!
×