Are There Any Real Sources of Passive Income?

You may have heard analysts or financial advisors touting the advantages of “passive income,” a model that allows you to make money without ongoing effort. It sounds too good to be accurate, but is passive income really something the average person can accomplish? And if so, how can you do it?

The Perks of Passive Income

Passive income is powerful because it allows you to continue increasing your income stream without actively spending more time. If you have a full-time job or just trying to keep your life simpler, this is an incalculable advantage.

Additionally, picking up additional passive income sources is an excellent way to diversify your income streams. Having more diversity in your income will shield you against volatility and catastrophic losses, like what might occur if you lose your job or if a particular class of assets tanks in value.

Passive income sources

Passive Income Sources

Before we dig into the logistics of passive income, let’s look at some of the most commonly cited examples of financial strategy.

Rental properties

If you invest in a rental property, you should be able to collect rent checks from your tenants that exceed the amount of money you pay per month in expenses. Assuming your tenants pay on time, you should be able to make a reasonable profit each month without needing to spend much time keeping your property updated.

Dividend-paying stocks

Many big U.S. companies offer dividends regularly to shareholders, which serve as distributions of profit. For example, a company may pay a dividend of $0.50 per share per quarter; if you own 1,000 shares of stock, you’ll earn $50 each quarter just for being a shareholder.

Blogging (with affiliate marketing or advertising)

If you have a popular blog that attracts a fair amount of traffic, you can monetize that recurring traffic with the help of advertising or affiliate marketing. One big caveat here is that you’ll need to post new content regularly—but if you have other guest authors doing the work for you, you may be able to let it run on its own, like an idling engine.

Car advertising

If you drive a car regularly, you may also be able to capitalize on your visibility by selling advertising space on the vehicle. It may be challenging to find a buyer, but you’ll make money by going about your day normally if you can—alternative ways to make money with your car.

The Weaknesses of Passive Income

As you can already see, even the most common and most appealing passive income sources have some important caveats that prevent them from being genuinely hands-off.

For example:

Upfront effort

First, you’ll notice that most of these passive income sources (and others) require a lot of upfront effort. Sure, you can make a significant sum of money with advertising if your blog gets thousands of monthly visitors, but growing a blog to get those thousands of consistent visitors can take months, if not years, of effort. Similarly, it takes a lot of research to find a rental property worth your investment capital, and you’ll even need to do your due diligence before choosing dividend stocks.

Capital demands

Many passive income strategies require you to have the capital to begin with. For example, if you want to buy a rental property, you may be able to get a loan, but you’ll still need to front a down payment. Likewise, if you’re going to make a decent stream of income from dividends, you’ll need to own many shares.

Ongoing maintenance

Even the most “passive” sources of income aren’t truly effort-free. For example, if you’re managing a rental property, you’ll need to issue repairs, respond to tenant requests, and fill vacancies when you encounter them. Likewise, if you’re running a blog, you’ll need to make periodic updates.

Income volume

Most passive income sources aren’t known for being lucrative on small scales. For example, most company dividends are in the range of 2 to 4 percent per year; even if you have $100,000 invested, that only amounts to $2,000 to $4,000 of annual income. Likewise, an excellent rental property might only yield a few hundred dollars of profit per month. And more gimmicky strategies, like advertising on your car, might barely earn you enough money for an extra meal now and then.

The Bottom Line

So what’s the bottom line here? Passive income is a “real” concept, and a perfectly achievable one, even if you’re an average investor without much cash on hand. However, these aren’t get-rich-quick schemes, and passive income probably isn’t ever going to be completely passive.

A collection of passive income sources can diversify your holdings, increase your total income volume, and ultimately set you up for a brighter financial future.

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