While all the ideas in this article can and do work, you can’t go in half cocked. Just putting up a niche website and expecting people to magically come and click on your ads won’t get you very far. Instead, you’ll need to put work into building an audience. You can put a course up on Udemy in a few hours, or a theme on ThemeForest, but unless you market it, you won’t sell very many copies. 

The reason I consider dividends artificial and believe they don’t matter is because you can just as easily reinvest your dividends. If a stock is worth $100/share, I don’t care if it issues a $1/share dividend or if the share price instead increases to $101/share – either way, I have the same amount of money, because there’s no difference to my net worth whether I take the dividend or sell part of a stock.
With $200,000 a year in passive income, I would have enough income to provide for a family of up to four in San Francisco, given we bought a modest home in 2014. Now that we have a son, I'm happy to say that $200,000 indeed does seem like enough, especially if we can win the public-school lottery to avoid paying $20,000 to $50,000 a year in private-school tuition.
Now, how do you do it? Building a passive income will require some work up front, but choosing a method that plays to your strengths will yield the most success, and it can even become a fun hobby! Have an aptitude for photography? License your photos to stock photography websites. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to invest? Learn how with a robo-advisor. No matter what your strengths are, we’ve gathered 35 ideas for different ways you can generate passive income and build your wealth.
With $200,000 a year in passive income, I would have enough income to provide for a family of up to four in San Francisco, given we bought a modest home in 2014. Now that we have a son, I'm happy to say that $200,000 indeed does seem like enough, especially if we can win the public-school lottery to avoid paying $20,000 to $50,000 a year in private-school tuition.
If you need cash flow, and the dividend doesn’t meet your needs, sell a little appreciated stock. (or keep a CD ladder rolling and leave your stock alone). At the risk of repeating myself, whether you take cash out of your portfolio in the form of “rent”, dividend, interest, cap gain, laddered CD…., etc. The arithmetic doesn’t change. You are still taking cash out of your portfolio. I’m just pointing out that we shouldn’t let the tail wag the dog. IOW, the primary goal is to grow the long term value of your portfolio, after tax. Period. All other goals are secondary.
I have only dabbled in drop-shipping before when I had an eCommerce platform 6 years ago or so. I think it is something that you could do on the side, but you would want to do in depth research on the industry you want to get into before setting up shop. It may be a little less passive up front, but over time you could take your hands off the wheel.
Creating passive income is the key to retiring, especially retiring early. If you want to retire early with the stock market you will have to save a huge amount of money, because that money has to last so long and retirement calculators depend on you using your investment to fund your life. With passive income you will have income coming in as long as you own the investment, without every eating away at the principle invested. Creating passive income may take more work than investing in the stock market, but I think it is well worth the extra effort!
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 knew I didn't want to work 70 hours a week in finance forever. My body was breaking down, and I was constantly stressed. As a result, I started saving every other paycheck and 100% of my bonus since my first year out of college in 1999. By the time 2012 rolled around, I was earning enough passive income (about $78,000) to negotiate a severance and be free.
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.
I enjoy how you lay out real numbers. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. While you admit that you are somewhat conservative, I think the $1M in CD’s is just too conservative. Assuming you don’t need the cash flow now (which you say you just save anyways) then all that could be invested for potentially higher returns. For example, what if you bought San Francisco real estate along the way instead of CD’s. Or, an SP500 Index fund. I bet your average return would have been higher than 3.75%. Sure you could lose it, but the point is if you don’t need the cash flow now, you should try to increase that nut as high as possible until the day you actually need it. Your nut could be $5M right now if you had invested in asset classes other than CD’s for the last 14 years. Don’t get me wrong, you have done far better than me, but I guess I would take a little more risk if you don’t rely on that cash flow.
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. 

Comment Policy: We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and are subject to approval. Comments are solely the opinions of their authors'. The responses in the comments below are not provided or commissioned by any advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any company. It is not anyone's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
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.
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 :)
And real estate does more than just track inflation – it throws off income (which is important to some people and useful to most). And while your underlying asset is appreciating, the income also grows as rents increase over time. And if you make smart and well-timed purchases, both rents and asset values can increase at well above the rate of inflation.
Some good writing here! I am a realtor myself and frequently get in touch with clients that consider buying a realty estate a conservative of investing. I once heard of a transport company in Vienna, Austria, which focused their entire profit on buying eventually every house available in the downtown for about 80 years. That must be some of a passive income!
Personally, my experience with Amazon thus far has been good - a few of my short eBooks generate steady passive income on weekly basis with zero additional effort from my side. One thing to note though - Amazon pays 70% royalty on each eBook sold only if your eBook is priced between $2.99 to $9.99. Less than or higher than that pricing structure, the royalty decreases to 35%.of your book’s listed price.
Most credit card companies offer sign-up bonuses to entice you to open a credit account with them. As long as you don’t spend money just to hit the minimum balance and always pay your balance on time, this can have a minimal impact on your credit score while earning you hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars a year. Some of the best travel credit cards offer 100,000 points to new accounts when you meet reasonable spending requirements. 

Another benefit, which many online entrepreneurs do not even consider, is that you don’t need to create the whole product before launching it. You only need to create a small portion of your actual content, and complete it only after you get your first member during his membership - that means you get paid IN ADVANCE of actually creating your site content. It also means that you can modify your content based on LIVE feedback from paying customers. More importantly, this is a great way to VALIDATE your site and ensure you create a product based on what customers want, not just what you think they want.
Real estate crowdsourcing allows you to surgically invest as little as $5,000 into a residential or commercial real estate project for potentially 8 – 15% annual returns based off historical data. Such returns are much better than the average private equity, CD, bond market, P2P lending, and dividend investing returns. With P2P lending, borrowers can sometimes default and leave you with nothing. At least with real estate crowdsource investing, there’s a physical asset that’s backing your investment.

Thank you for sharing your article! You did a great job saving and putting your money to work for you. Like you, I share the same financial dream of having 150-200k in passive income and traveling the world stress-free! :) Right now I’m saving about 80-90% of my active income and put it toward ETF funds and value growth stocks because I’m seeking capital appreciation. And I can tolerate a lot of risks because I’m still in my early 20’s. By the time I reach 30 something I’ll start looking into blue chips stocks that pay dividends and REIT. So I want to be where you are by that time lol. Anyways, that the plan and I’m sticking to it. Good luck on achieving your financial dream!
“Where a lot of people mess up is they try to build a business or create a product that serves everybody, and by trying to serve everybody, you serve nobody. You have to specialize and niche down and find a market with a pain point that you, based on your experience, based on your education and based on your passion, can help,” he says. Your earnings will directly reflect how well you serve that particular audience, and the more your message resonates with them, the more opportunities you’ll have to sell to them.

If you have specialized knowledge in a certain topic, you can put together an online course to teach others. For example, if you have experience in real estate investing, you can create an online course “Real Estate Investing 101”. The benefit of an online course is that once you create the course material, you can sell it to as many people as you want.
Peer-to-Peer Lending: Earn up to 10% in returns by lending individuals, organizations and small companies who don't qualify for traditional financing through peer-to-peer lending platforms like Lending Club. You can lend $100, $1,000, or more to borrowers who meet lending platform financial standards. Like a bank, you'll earn interest on the loan - often at higher returns than banks usually get.

One of the easiest ways to increase your passive income is to shift your savings to a bank that pays a higher yield on your savings — for example, Discover Bank and EverBank pay almost 1% for your money. Although it doesn’t sound like much (especially in this low interest environment), little things do add up and eventually interest rates will rise.


Returns on real estate investing vary and you don’t want to get into the business based on an estimated return but on your own calculation of what is possible for your local market and for specific properties. I have seen pretty common averages between 8% and 12% a year for single-family residential rentals with cash flow accounting for between 0% and 6% of the return.
×