It’s easy to think of passive income as money earned while sitting on a beach sipping mojitos, but there is lots of work involved, says financial coach and retired hedge fund manager Todd Tresidder.
Still, passive income can be a great supplementary source of funds for many people, and it can prove to be an especially valuable lifeline during a recession or during other tough times, such as the government lockdown imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Passive income can keep some money flowing when you lose a job or otherwise experience some financial hardship.
What is passive income?
Passive income includes regular earnings from a source other than an employer or contractor. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says passive income can come from two sources: rental property or a business in which one does not actively participate, such as being paid book royalties or stock dividends.
“Many people think that passive income is about getting something for nothing,” Tresidder says. “It has a ‘get-rich-quick’ appeal … but in the end, it still involves work. You just give the work upfront.”
In practice, you may do some or all of the work upfront, but passive income often involves some additional labor along the way, too. You may have to keep your product updated or your rental property well-maintained, in order to keep the passive dollars flowing.
11 passive income ideas for building wealth
If you’re thinking about creating a passive income stream, check out these 11 strategies and learn what it takes to be successful with them, while also understanding the risks associated with each idea.
1. Selling information products
One popular strategy for passive income is establishing an information product, such as an e-book, or an audio or video course, then kicking back while cash rolls in from the sale of your product. Courses can be distributed and sold through sites such as Udemy, SkillShare and Coursera.
Opportunity: Information products can deliver an excellent income stream, because you make money easily after the initial outlay of time.
Risk: “It takes a massive amount of effort to create the product,” Tresidder says. “And to make good money from it, it has to be great. There’s no room for trash out there.”
Tresidder says you must build a strong platform, market your products and plan for more products if you want to be successful.
“One product is not a business unless you get really lucky,” Tresidder says. “The best way to sell an existing product is to create more excellent products.”
Once you master the business model, you can generate a good income stream, he says.
2. Rental income
Investing in rental properties is an effective way to earn passive income. But it often requires more work than people expect.
If you don’t take the time to learn how to make it a profitable venture, you could lose your investment and then some, says John H. Graves, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) in the Los Angeles area and author of “The 7% Solution: You Can Afford a Comfortable Retirement.”
Opportunity: To earn passive income from rental properties, Graves says you must determine three things:
- How much return you want on the investment.
- The property’s total costs and expenses.
- The financial risks of owning the property.
For example, if your goal is to earn $10,000 a year in rental income and the property has a monthly mortgage of $2,000 and costs another $300 a month for taxes and other expenses, you’d have to charge $3,133 in monthly rent to reach your goal.
Risk: There are a few questions to consider: Is there a market for your property? What if you get a tenant who pays late or damages the property? What if you’re unable to rent out your property? Any of these factors could put a big dent in your passive income.