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.
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.
Money from dividends, for example, are taxed at a lower rate than money from a job. A business owner who works in the company she or he founded would have to pay more self-employment payroll taxes compared to someone who merely had a passive interest in the same limited liability company who would pay only income taxes. In other words, the same income earned actively would be taxed at a higher rate than if it were earned passively.
The books are pleasantly organized, customers served, teams managed, etc. The problem (in my mind) is that this is hugely time intensive and easily capped. Income = Time x Value, where Time is a finite resource limited to 24 hours a day (or, more realistically, 12).The way most people address this is to change the second variable. They get a law degree, MBA, or PhD, making their time worth more money. This works swell… but it’s still limited. At some point, you’re that lawyer making $550/hr, but your income potential is capped, as willingness to pay more is at it’s highest, and no new time can be created. What to do?
They also launched an incredible Retirement Planning Calculator that pulls in real data from your linked accounts to run a Monte Carlo simulation model to output the most likely results of your financial future. I strongly suggest you run your own numbers, play around with the income and expense variables, and see how you stack up. It’s all free and easy to use.
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.
Stock dividends: Some stocks, especially stocks from big corporate standouts, pay dividends to shareholders based on the number of shares they own, and the percentage of the stock price on the dividend date. For example, if a company pays out 3% on a stock that's trading at $100 per share, you'll earn $3 for every share of that stock you own. Add it up and that can be good take-home pay as a passive investment.
Part of providing value is building trust. Don’t link to things that aren’t of good quality or people won’t trust your recommendations. The other part of making an audience is consistency. It matters less how often you post than how consistently. If you only have time to do one post a month, that post should come out on the same date and time each month.
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.
I don’t really know much about those…I should take a look from a diversification standpoint. If you don’t mind me asking, what do you target for your net effective tax rate on your passive income? Also, I’m sure you’ve probably covered this somewhere, but how do you deal with healthcare? One more dumb question…have you found that you spend more or less money than you anticipated once you retired?
We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.

Passive income is earnings derived from a rental property, limited partnership or other enterprise in which a person is not actively involved. As with active income, passive income is usually taxable. However, it is often treated differently by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Portfolio income is considered passive income by some analysts, so dividends and interest would therefore be considered passive.

I have six rental units which are a good source of passive income. I don’t use a property manager because you are right…they take about 10% of your rent. There are really only 2 things that tenants call about: 1. A plumbing issue 2. Heat/Air problems. Just find a plumber and heat/air guy you can trust. I travel a lot for my primary job. When a call comes in from a tenant, I can call the repair guy in just as easy as a property manager.
Money from dividends, for example, are taxed at a lower rate than money from a job. A business owner who works in the company she or he founded would have to pay more self-employment payroll taxes compared to someone who merely had a passive interest in the same limited liability company who would pay only income taxes. In other words, the same income earned actively would be taxed at a higher rate than if it were earned passively.

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.


Acorns: Acorns is a great way to start investing and building wealth. As it turns out, Acorns will pay you $5 to start investing with them for as little as $1. That’s a 500% return, plus it’s probably time you started investing for your future. They even have features like round-up and found money that allows you to get free money from places you already shop at.
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.
Crowdfunded real estate companies like Fundrise are similar to today’s peer-to-peer lending companies. Like Lending Club and Prosper, they offer a platform that matches real estate investors with investment choices. They help people looking to invest money in real estate in a passive manner. Also, investors can avoid bargaining with sellers. No need to get involved in the transfer of ownership and management of those properties either. https://i.ytimg.com/vi/RyiTG4pPbp4/maxresdefault.jpg
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- This is more for the experienced online entrepreneur who already has some authority in his or her niche. If that’s your case and you’re interested in becoming an instructor in CreativeLive, the world’s leading live online classroom platform, you’ll want to email them your proposal. This includes what you would want to teach, links to any websites with your work, social media sites or video of you leading instruction. If you’re just beginning, this is great goal to aim for.

If you are not able to get a mortgage on the property, there are still a few options available though rates can be fairly high. You might try approaching the seller for owner financing where they sell the property to you on monthly installments. This might not be possible if there’s a mortgage on the property since many carry a “due on sale” clause. If you do go this route, make absolutely sure you get a notarized contract with all the details.
Real-estate crowdfunding ($9,600 a year): Once I sold my SF rental, it was natural to reinvest some of the proceeds into real-estate crowdfunding to keep sector exposure. I didn't invest a lot in some of my favorite real-estate investment trusts because I felt a rising interest-rate environment would be a stronger headwind for REITs. But if I could be more surgical with my real-estate investments by identifying specific investments in stronger employment-growth markets, I thought I could do better.
So, armed with my real estate license and this desire to help physicians (and create a business at the same time), I started a real estate company called Curbside Real Estate. My goal was to help physicians buy and sell homes by connecting them to trusted realtors and lenders. It started organically, largely through word of mouth. Next thing you know, I was helping doctors from coast to coast. The business was great and I felt I was making an impact helping physicians, but I still wanted to own my own real estate investment properties.
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.
1) If your property is not under rent control, you have the ability to raise rent to market prices with proper warning. In SF, I have to give tenants a one month warning for up to a 10% increase and a two month warning for up to 60%. Rent control limits to an inflation index, usually around 2% a year, which is why initial pricing and tenant turnover is important for better profitability.
I've now only got an SF rental condo and a Lake Tahoe vacation rental in my real-estate-rental portfolio. Although I miss my old house, I certainly don't miss paying $23,000 a year in property taxes and another mortgage, and dealing with leaks and managing terrible tenants. I drove by the other day and couldn't believe how much noisier and busier the street was than where I currently live. I wouldn't be comfortable raising my son there.
Another way to generate passive income is to invest and be a silent partner in a business. This is very risky, but with risk comes the potential for high returns. For example, several years ago both Lyft and Uber were looking for private investors to invest in their companies. Today, they are worth billions - but you as an investor would only reap that benefit if they go public via an IPO, or get acquired. So, it's risky.

Though it requires a huge up-front investment (well, at least 20%), real estate is awesome, because it’s (usually) pretty stable, and it’s a triple-whammy: you make money by leveraging a bank’s money, you can rent it out with almost no work at all day-to-day, and the value of the underlying asset INCREASES. This is why so many people flock to AirBNB to rent out their apartments when they’re going on vacation, too. It’s pretty passive, you don’t have to own the asset, and you just hand over keys and hire a cleaner before/after. The value of your apartment is untouched. By contrast, imagine buying a plane and renting it out to people for tours — you pay tons of money to maintain it, and after 20 years, it’s value is almost nothing. The exception is if you can manage depreciation and somewhat automate the value-delivery. If you have an expensive tool (like a 3D printer) and charge people to come over to your house and print things on your 3D printer, it’s pretty passive for you to answer emails and open the door, so I give it a “Semi to yes” for passivity.
The biggest surprise is real estate being second to last on my Passive Income Ranking List because I’ve written that real estate is my favorite investment class to build wealth. Physical real estate doesn’t stack up well against the other passive income sources due to the lack of liquidity and constant maintenance of tenants and property. The returns can be huge due to rising rental income AND principal over time, much like dividend investing. If you are a “proactive passive income earner” like myself, then real estate is great.
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.
Unless you live nearby and genuinely enjoy doing maintenance work, you will probably want to hire a property manager to oversee your investment. Do some research on any potential management company. You should look at the number and type of properties the company manages, as well as how many properties each individual manager handles. If this last figure is higher than 250, it’s likely your property may not get enough attention.
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.
2. Focus on income-producing assets. Internet growth stocks may be sexy, but they provide no income. To build a large enough passive-income stream to survive, you must invest in dividend-generating stocks, certificates of deposit, municipal bonds, government Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, and real estate. You're free to invest in non-income-producing assets for capital appreciation too. You just want to earn reliable income when the day comes to leave your job.
This was a very inspirational article! I too spent 20+ years in a high-stress career selling a high-end product under a 100 percent commission plan; that is, no salary! I realized, after racking up millions of frequent flyer miles, that there had to be a better and less-stressful way of making a living. My goal was to design my own lifestyle free of corporate shackles, which required a pre-determined amount of passive income.
Stock dividends: Some stocks, especially stocks from big corporate standouts, pay dividends to shareholders based on the number of shares they own, and the percentage of the stock price on the dividend date. For example, if a company pays out 3% on a stock that's trading at $100 per share, you'll earn $3 for every share of that stock you own. Add it up and that can be good take-home pay as a passive investment.
I watched an episode of Shark Tank once where I was introduced to Major Robert Dyer. Major Dyer was pitching a new energy drink called The Ruck Pack Energy Drink. It’s not like the world needs another energy drink, but he was able to convince both Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjevic, two of the investors on the show, to give him $150k in exchange for 20 percent of the company.

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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