The second category of passive income is drawing on sources that do not require capital to start, maintain, and grow. These are far better choices for those who want to start out on their own and build a fortune from nothing. They include assets you can create, such as a book, song, patent, trademark, Internet site, recurring commissions, or businesses that earn nearly infinite returns on equity such as a drop-ship e-commerce retailer that has little or no money tied up in operations but still turns a profit.

What’s also really important to realize here is that when I took the exam I was teaching people to study for, I didn’t get a perfect score. In fact, I didn’t even get close to a perfect score. I passed. But I also knew a lot about this exam—way more than somebody who was just getting started diving into studying for it. And it was because of that, because I was just a few steps ahead of them, that they trusted me to help them with that information. To support this, I provided a lot of great free value to help them along the way. I engaged in conversations and interacted in comments sections and on forums. Most of all, I just really cared about those people, because I struggled big-time with that exam myself.


I prefer assets that make me a high return for the lowest amount of work possible (semi-passive involvement). And assets that pay me in several unique ways. Cash flow is only one way RE makes money for me. I also get principal reductions, appreciation, tax advantages (depreciation), and I control the rental increases on a yearly basis. Plus a majority of the capital is provided by the secondary market on 30 year fixed low interest rate debt.

Immediately after I graduated from business school, a lot of people began asking me what I would do, or if I’d found a job. The answer was almost always “working a few hours a week on some side projects until re-launching my startup.” Whereas this may sound like an unfortunate or undesirable outcome, really was not so bad… My gross income then — without really “working” on anything — was higher than it was when I was working 80 hour weeks running a $3M/year eCommerce company. Sure, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was all part of a strategy that would eventually lead me towards “accidentally” building a 7-figure media business that runs whether or not I show up to work this month. Let me explain…
I own several rental properties in the mid west and I live in CA. I have never even seen them in person. With good property management in place (not easy to find but possible) it is definitely possible to own cash flowing properties across the country. Not for everyone and not without it’s drawbacks, but it seems to be working for me so far. I’m happy to answer any questions about my experience with this type of investing.
What I’m doing: My realistic goal is to have a blended annual return of 2x the risk free rate. With a current 5% hurdle, I am not paying down mortgages that cost less than 4%. Debt at 5% is a wash. My realistic blue sky scenario is a 3-4X rate of return over the risk free rate which can be achieved with property, stocks so far for the past five years, and certain private equity investments. Where I am dragging is my blended average CD interest rate of roughly 3% from an old CD coming due. I’ve rolled some money into a 12-month CD with CIT Bank at 2.5%. It’s the best rate I can find. 

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.
Notes are loans against properties that can also be used to create passive income. Most people assume the bank or mortgage company they get a loan with, keeps that loan. Most notes are sold to investors, usually as mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street. Some notes are sold to individual investors as either performing or non-performing. Performing notes mean the borrowers are making payments and non-performing meant the borrowers are behind or have stopped making payments. When you buy a note, you become the bank and start collecting payments every month. There is a lot of money to be made with performing and no performing notes and they are a great way to create passive income.
This may all seem like a lot of work but it’s how professional real estate investors do it. If you are buying rental properties on a hunch and just paying what you feel like the property is worth, you’re going to end up over-paying. Understanding exactly how much a property is worth will put you ahead in the negotiations and get you the best price possible.
* I use Personal Capital to track all my finances in one place. It’s much easier to use their free software to follow 28 accounts on one platform than to log into various accounts to check my balances. They’ve also got great tools for x-raying your portfolio for excessive fees, recommending a more optimized asset allocation, and planning for retirement with their Retirement Planner.
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