My esteemed marketing colleagues initially balked at the idea of creating products that generate royalties, so I can understand how creating something from nothing might be daunting for those who aren’t even in creative roles. However, realize there is this enormous world out there of photographers, bloggers, artists, and podcasters who are making a passive income thanks to the Internet.
I just graduated college in May and was fortunate enough to secure an entry level consulting position that pays 55k/yr (a little less than ~35k after 401K, other benefits, and the lovely taxes that government bestows upon us). I started from “scratch” with my finances and have ~$2.3k in an online savings account. Since starting work a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had an aggressive savings plan (saving around ~40-50% of my monthly income). However, I’m going to become even more aggressive and live off 1 paycheck a month (and save the other paycheck) like you have suggested in many of your blog posts.
You are also free to choose a fund that is based on any index that you want. For example, there are index funds set up for just about every market sector there is — energy, precious metals, banking, emerging markets — you name it. All you have to do is decide that you want to participate, then contribute money and sit back and relax. Your stock portfolio will then be on automatic pilot.
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Rental properties are defined as passive income with a couple of exceptions. If you’re a real estate professional, any rental income you’re making counts as active income. If you’re "self-renting," meaning that you own a space and are renting it out to a corporation or partnership where you conduct business, that does not constitute passive income unless that lease had been signed before 1988, in which case you’ve been grandfathered into having that income being defined as passive. According to the IRS, "it does not matter whether or not the use is under a lease, a service contract, or some other arrangement."
What I did: I first identified my favorite places in the world to live: San Francisco, Honolulu, Paris, Amsterdam, New York City, and Lake Tahoe. I then looked up the median rent and housing prices for each city. Then I factored in private education costs for two kids to be conservative given I may not have two kids and public schools are often good enough. After calculating all vital costs, I then did a self-assessment of how happy I was making $50,000, $100,000, $150,000, $200,000, $250,000, $350,000, $500,000, and $750,000. I decided working 20 hours a week making $200,000 a year is the best income balance for maximum happiness.
Which all goes back to my point – since companies change in a lot of unpredictable ways, it makes more sense for passive income to just ride the market by investing in a Total Domestic Stock Market, Total Bond Market, and Total International index funds, with allocations that depend on your goals and time horizon. For income, withdraw 4% or less, depending on what research you believe, and you’ve got a pretty low risk strategy.
One word of advice, and something I intend to do once I have the money saved up, is to build or buy out property that can support apartments or townhomes. One tough mistake some people make is buying a pair of homes to rent out and they get a nice $2,000-$3,000 a month but that’s it. Buying a house is expensive and the rental prices keep lower income families from potentially coming to you with their money to rent. If you have an acre to work with (more or less is OK too) you should be talking to a contractor to build apartments or townhomes. You will make a little less per unit BUT your audience grows significantly because now you can have college students, single parents, older folks, etc. all able to afford your rental units AND instead of capturing one $1,000-$1,500 a month payments, you can probably charge $700 a month per unit (or more, depending on the market) and build maybe 3, 4, 5, 10 units for the price of a home or two and now you’re making something like $2,100-$10,000 a month. It all depends on what you have to invest but if you’ve got $250,000+ I’d highly suggest you talk to a bank/investor that can get you in touch with a good contractor to build on a property and get permits and take out a matching $250,000 loan (I’ve read that $500,000 is plenty to build a good amount of apartments to start) and you can fill up your apartments and make a killing every month. You’ll have more tenants to deal with but if you’re competitive with your pricing you won’t have a hard time keeping tenants or replacing them.