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.
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.
My favorite type of semi-passive income was rental property because it was a tangible asset that provided reliable income. As I grew older, my interest in rental property waned because I no longer had the patience and time to deal with maintenance issues and tenants. Online real estate became more attractive, along with tax-free municipal-bond income once rates started to rise.

Occupational therapist Sarah Stromsdorfer founded occupational therapy site MyOTSpot.com three years ago as an online educational resources for occupational therapy students and professionals. She worked on it every weekend, and her site now makes enough income for her to work as an occupational therapist part-time. She believes it will be another year before her site makes enough money for a full-time living of about $4,000 per month. In addition to the digital products she also makes money from ads and online book sales.
Make sure your tenants understand that the rent is due in your PO box by a certain day. I recommend using a post office box to avoid tenants coming to your home. Understand how much you can legally charge for a late payment, usually a trivial amount like $15 after a grace period. Explain to new tenants your policy on the eviction process, i.e. when do you start the process when rent is late.
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.
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).
Vanguard: Vanguard has a minimum of $50,000 and a fee of 0.3%. Rebalancing is done automatically once every quarter and tax loss harvesting is done on a client-by-client basis. We included Vanguard because clients who invest between $50,000-$500,000 have access to a team of financial advisors. Those with accounts over $500,000 will have a dedicated advisor.
3. Start as soon as possible. Building a livable passive-income stream takes a tremendously long time, largely because of declining interest rates since the late 1980s. Gone are the days of making a 5%-plus return on a short-term CD or savings account. Today, the best 12-month CD is at 2.5%, and the best money-market rate is about 1.85%, which is not bad, considering such rates were below 0.5% just a couple of years ago. Know that every $100 you save can generate at least $2.5 in passive income.
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.
But two months later, with the economy slowing down after the financial crisis, his firm began laying people off, and Flynn was informed that after his current projects were finished, he also would be out of a job. At the same time, he couldn’t help but notice that in the LEED exam forums he had frequented, people were referring to him as an expert and directing questions his way. He began to think he might capitalize on that.

eBay is, of course, the biggest and most popular auction and shopping site out there. You pay a small insertion fee to list your product (starting from 10 cents) and a small portion of the selling price (10%) if your item sells. Currently, insertion fees for your first 50 listings per calendar month are free. Also, if you are planning to sell on regular basis, you may want to consider setting up an Ebay store. Among other things, this will allow you to list your products at reduced rates.


For me, this has worked out brilliantly. Because I had passive income streams set up, I didn’t have to worry about generating sales immediately, raising funds from investors so that I can eat, etc. I could take my time, try out 100 different opportunities, and ultimately settle on a business that suited my needs (the one that I’m running now), which allows me to live and work wherever I want and whenever I want, and is, for the most part, fully autonomous. But I didn’t always have passive income — in fact, it took a lot of trial and error and a lot of learning (do yourself a favor and read Rich Dad Poor Dad — iBooks Link Here) before I had anything worth mentioning.
1. The batting cage idea is very risky. I’ve seen many of them close over the years and it is not anything close to passive income if you want to keep the business going. You have to continually promote it and target youth leagues, coaches, schools etc to catch all of the new players who grow up and want to play. I’ve played at probably 8 batting cages over the years and 7 of them closed.

P2P lending is the practice of loaning money to borrowers who typically don’t qualify for traditional loans. As the lender you have the ability to choose the borrowers and are able to spread your investment amount out to mitigate your risk. The most popular peer to peer lending platform is Lending Club. You can read our full lending club review here: Lending Club Review.
Not really. I love my speed reading courses, I’m passionate about them. I loved working on apps to help small businesses kick more ass. Sure, it’s not as “sexy” as running a full time startup with dozens of employees, but that’s not the point. The point is to make enough money to be able to take risks and do what I want. Plus, if I’ve proven anything, it’s that you can turn these projects into full time if they become interesting enough to you.
As for me, I started focusing on passive income last year, but have owned rentals for 5 years. $25k now outside retirement accounts in mostly real estate. Looking to invest another $500k cash into real estate to get about $65k, and then 1031 under performers next year to hopefully boost that a bit higher. Heavy in real estate, but feels lower risk than the stock market to me if you have cashflowing properties. Real estate is inflation adjusted, and built in cashflow raise when the loan pays off.

Ever find yourself humming a tune, or laying down tracks for yourself or friends? Your next catchy phrase might fetch you a solid passive income stream. On sites like ProductionTrax and Audio Network, musicians can license their compositions for background music in apps, commercials, and websites to earn more money. Read more about this strategy at The Guardian.
Thanks for asking. https://passiveincomemd.com/what-is-passive-income/ gives a good summary of the definition I use. But in brief, it’s income that isn’t proportional to the time you physically put into acquiring it. It doesn’t mean it’s not without work or effort. It’s just that most of the work is done up front and it continues to pay off long after that initial effort. Real estate fits into that box. There’s definitely a spectrum but compared to what we do as doctors, where our compensation is directly linked to our time, most of these things are quite passive.
I’m feeling inspired! I’ve been a PT for 19 years and I feel I have so much experience to offer but have been so intimated by starting a blog. I also subscribed to Michelle’s website but wasn’t sure it was for real. Is it for real? After reading this I feel like it’s time to take the plunge, I need to start a blog, I have so many ideas and even course ideas. I want to get away from the paperwork that plagues our healthcare system but not leave the field so the blog just might be the answer. I’ve been a landlord for 15 years now, great investment for sure, renters paid for the down payment of our house and should hopefully help pay for our kids college. I’d love to have one more! Thank you for the inspiration, wish me luck with my blogging!
Remember, a successful business solves people’s problems. At first, you’re going to have to do the legwork and put in the time. But it’s about building something now so you can reap the benefits later, with the help of software, tools, automation, and people you hire. In this way, you can then turn this business that solves people’s problems into something that generates passive income for you!
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.
At some point in every value chain, value has to be created by a real human. No argument there. However, who says that a human has to deliver that value? Some very smart humans put in the work to create Google, but for the most part, they don’t have to do any work to deliver value to you, whether it’s search results or GMail or Maps. Your landlord put in a lot of work to afford the apartment you live in, to remodel it, and even to find you as a tenant. But now, he doesn’t have to do any work to deliver value to you: you wake up every morning in the apartment whether or not he works.
I really enjoyed how you listed all of the reasons to build passive income streams as well as the framework. You also made an interesting point about freelance writing on how the more skilled writers want to keep posts for their own website. Good insight because freelance writing is something I’ve been looking into for income recently. Also, it’s amazing what you’ve been able to accomplish with your blog over the past 6 years. It’s so motivational to see the success of Financial Samurai. I’m not in a place to afford any consulting, but, I wish I could pick your brain or get mentored by a successful blogger such as yourself…Not trying to blow smoke lol. It would just be so great to have someone who’s done it provide guidance around the direction of the blog, ways to earn, and on the general concept. Always enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing :)
I want to develop a passive income stream in the next 4 years, nothing grand, maybe an extra 500-1000 dollars a month, but I’m not sure how to go about it so I was wondering if you had any tips. I’m so-so as a writer, and am currently finishing up my second book (just write as a hobby), and in the past made about 30-50 dollars an hour as a free lance writer but that was a couple of years back, it was only for about 10-20 hours a month, and the gig just dried up. I just got particularly lucky with that. I’ve tried online poker as a means in the past, and which I learned A) was not passive income but hard work and B) I have an addictive personality which resulted in me losing the 4g I earned in 6 weeks over the span of 72 hours so that’s out of the picture. I also partook in some illegal selling of things when I was younger, but being a little older and wiser the risk-reward ratio for possibly ending up in Jail just doesn’t match up. I tried making three businesses (dog walking, house cleaning, and personal assistant) and while those all were succesful to varying degrees and earned me about 15-25 dollars an hour, they weren’t mobile and quiet honestly I don’t have the time to be a full time dog walker or run a house cleaning operation seeing as I’ll be in school, work, and athletics.
As a general rule, the passive activity loss rules are applied at the individual level. Although Internal Revenue Code Section 469 was enacted to discourage abusive tax shelters, its impact extends far beyond shelters to virtually every business or rental activity whether reported on Schedules C, F, or E, as well as to flow through income and losses from partnerships, S- Corporations, and trusts. Generally, the law does not apply to regular C-Corporations although it does have limited application to closely held corporations.
As a private lender, you can lend to anyone in your social circle. For example, many home rehabbers need access to a source of capital they can tap into very quickly in order to fund the initial purchase of their properties. You can partner with a rehabber who uses your capital for a short-term in exchange for an interest rate that is mutually agreed upon.
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John has a daily (yes, daily) podcast where he features an interview with a successful entrepreneur. Now, John enjoys many hundreds of thousands of downloads per month, he’s written a book, has products and has opened up a ton of opportunities for sponsorships and partnerships that wouldn’t have come otherwise. He’s not the first person to have a show dedicated to interviewing rock star entrepreneurs—not even close—but he’s definitely the fastest to see these kinds of results.
I think that rental real estate is not perfectly passive income. Landlords need to make a lot not only in order to list the property, but also to keep reliable tenants. So, I would say that it could a challenging job, for people, who have rental real estate but not a source of passive income. Maintenance and management costs that should to be also considered.
When most people think of investing opportunities, they think of stocks, bonds, and precious metals. While these are still some of the most common ways to invest, the platforms have evolved, and there are more options than ever. Gone are the days of mountains of paperwork, high brokerage fees and unattainable account minimums. Now you can invest on your own terms.
If you know anything well, a place, how to fix something, how to make something, how to do something, you can write a guide for it. You can sell your guide as an e-book, offer it as a download for a fee on your site or reach out to bloggers with similar content and ask if they will offer it as a paid download on their website (for a price of course).
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.
Rentals, just like stocks, throw off cash. With rentals we call that cash “rent”, and with stocks we call it dividends. A significant difference however is that the S&P 500 has appreciated at ~6% per year (above inflation) for the last 100 years…..Real Estate has had almost 0 growth above inflation. So are rents higher than dividends? Maybe, maybe not. But unless you got one heck of a deal, the delta in rent over dividends will have a very tough time making up for the 6% per year difference in appreciation.
Build a list in a particular niche and tell them stories. Create a bond. Build a relationship with them. It's important. Then, when you've created a bit of culture, start marketing affiliate products or services to them that you think they might like. Just be sure that you personally vet out whatever it is that you're selling to avoid complaints if the product or service falls short.
6) Always Remember That Everything Is Relative. The best way to determine worthwhile passive income streams is by comparing the likely return (IRR) with the current risk-free rate of return. If I round up, the 10 year bond yield is at 3%. Any new venture should thoroughly beat 3% otherwise you are wasting your efforts since you can earn 3% doing nothing.
There are a few advantages to taking this approach. First, you get close to 100% of your listed price (minus the transaction fee of your preferred payment gateway). Second, you are not competing with other authors and have the reader’s attention solely on your product. Third, selling your eBook on your own platform is a great opportunity to build a long term relationship with your readers via email. Fourth, you can bundle your eBook with other goodies in order to bump up the value and make it more unique. With so many advantages, it's worth putting up the time and start building your own platform.

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.
A) Live, breathe, eat, and sleep this activity that is their passion. It's what they most care about. There's no way they'd give up this active, creative endeavor for a life of reclining on a beach chair. They cannot wait to wake up another day and spend another full day, from dawn to dusk, engaging in this project, building and creating things within this realm, giving this gift to the world. And, my guess is these people...
Good suggestions. I have many of these. One word about the “app” idea. I had a great idea related to personal taxes that I tried to get off the ground with my accountant as a partner. I would say it’s difficult to do this unless you have a coder on your team. Hiring someone is not really viable financially unless the app is simple. When we finally got the quote for a coder to write what we wanted (and after doing lots of mock ups ourselves and getting a demo for investors) the estimate was about 750k just to really get started.
For me, this has worked out brilliantly. Because I had passive income streams set up, I didn’t have to worry about generating sales immediately, raising funds from investors so that I can eat, etc. I could take my time, try out 100 different opportunities, and ultimately settle on a business that suited my needs (the one that I’m running now), which allows me to live and work wherever I want and whenever I want, and is, for the most part, fully autonomous. But I didn’t always have passive income — in fact, it took a lot of trial and error and a lot of learning (do yourself a favor and read Rich Dad Poor Dad — iBooks Link Here) before I had anything worth mentioning.
Tenants usually move out before the court date but you may have to pay for a removal by the sheriff. All these fees and time delays add up and you can see why it is important to check tenant applicants in the first place. Having a formal eviction procedure will help avoid procrastinating the process and missing out on several months’ worth of rent trying to get tenants evicted.
Logan is a CPA with a Masters Degree in Taxation from the University of Southern California. He has been featured in publications such as Debt.com. He has nearly 10 years of public accounting experience, including 5 with professional services firm Ernst & Young where he consulted with multinational companies and high net worth individuals on their tax situations. He launched Money Done Right in 2017 to communicate modern ideas on earning, saving, and investing money.
For example, a three-year $10,000 loan with a Prosper Rating of AA would have an interest rate of 5.31% and a 2.41% origination fee for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 6.95% APR. You would receive $9,759 and make 36 scheduled monthly payments of $301.10. A five-year $10,000 loan with a Prosper Rating of A would have an interest rate of 8.39% and a 5.00% origination fee with a 10.59% APR.
Dividend investing is right up there for sure. You don’t have to charge $48. You can charge <$10 to boost sales. The internet has enabled so many creatives to publish their works at a low cost. People will surprise themselves if they try to create like when they were in school. The other reason why I have Creating Products edging out dividends is because of the much higher POTENTIAL to make a lot more money. For example, $20,000 a year in book sales requires $570,000 in dividend investments to replicate the same amount. Plus, there is capital risk. With book sales, there is a correlation with EFFORT, and you are not beholden to the whims of the markets.
One of the best ways to build wealth is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts on their Dashboard so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going.
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