Although it gets touted as easy money, most successful passive income ideas are the result of hard work: building an audience, optimizing paid ads, and delivering a great experience and a superior product.
However, as a current or aspiring business owner, you’re not afraid to put in the time to do all of those things, and you might already have all three checked off your list. Adding passive income streams to your life can give you more freedom, flexibility, and money. Here are 30 ways to generate passive income, with examples and tips to start today.
What is passive income?
Passive income (or unearned income, as it’s classified by the Internal Revenue Service) is defined as income that requires minimal work to generate and maintain, coming from somewhere other than a traditional employer.
Passive income streams can come from investing in mutual funds or real estate, selling products online, publishing online courses, or other side hustles in which the earner doesn’t have to actively participate.
Unlike active income, passive income is often generated automatically, providing residual income with minimal time and effort. It can improve your personal finances and give you the freedom of time. Not having to trade your time for money can reduce stress and anxiety, and additional cash flow can make you feel more confident about your financial future.
Whether you’re a service provider trying to stop selling dollars for hours or a product business looking to add income sources that don’t involve the logistics of sending out physical products, consider the following passive income ideas.
1. Maximize your retirement fund contributions
According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, eight out of 10 millionaires contributed to their 401(k) plans and three quarters said that regular, consistent investing was a key part of their success. If your company has a 401(k) plan, max out your contributions, particularly if your employer matches what you put in. It’s essentially free money.
If you’re self-employed or your company doesn’t offer a 401(k), look into other tax advantaged retirement accounts. For example, depending on your tax situation, an IRA or Roth IRA could help you save for your old age in the most tax-efficient way.
2. Learn about investing
Just as when you first bought crypto, understanding other types of investing can seem daunting at first. Take it slowly and learn everything you can before you jump in. Think about your risk tolerance and how you will build a balanced portfolio of investments. If you’re nearing retirement, you might opt to put a certain percentage of your money into bonds, which carry less risk than stocks.
In terms of equity investing, once you’ve opened a brokerage account, you don’t have to buy individual stocks, particularly if you don’t have time to actively research and manage your investments. Other ways of investing include mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and index funds. Index funds track a stock index, such as the S&P 500, whereas mutual funds are actively managed by a fund manager.
3. Build solid financial foundations
The trick to investing money is to think long term. The stock market could have a bad year and go down in the short term, but historically, over time it has produced strong average returns. However, to build wealth, it’s important to only invest money in stocks and bonds that you don’t plan to touch for the next five years or more. To do that, you’ll also need money put aside in a savings account.
An emergency fund that can cover three to six month’s of living expenses or more is an important building block. It can give you security so that if you hit a financial crisis, such as a job loss or medical emergency, you’ll be able to cover it without touching your investments or going into debt.
Another key factor is living below your means. It isn’t as exciting as buying crypto and becoming a millionaire in a matter of months. But spending less than you earn and saving or investing the rest is one of the few surefire ways to get rich over time.
4. Avoid debt
If you’re carrying high interest credit card debt, you’re not alone. However, it is a huge obstacle to wealth-building, as it eats into your income and costs you money over time. As a rule, if your debt costs you more than the interest you might earn by investing, it makes sense to prioritize paying down debt.
According to The Ascent research, the average credit card APR is 16.4%. In contrast, the average returns from the S&P 500 between 2012 and 2021 were 14.8%. Everybody’s situation is different, but be aware of the amount of debt you carry and what it is costing you.
A note on getting out of crypto
If your crypto assets are worth a lot less than you paid for them, the desire to cut your losses is understandable. However, don’t sell your crypto because of falling prices alone. Think about whether your original reasons for buying still hold true and how you think it might perform in the long term.
You may be keen to get out of crypto altogether, but panic-selling could prove costly. If you sell, you lock in your losses and won’t benefit if prices eventually recover. If you think individual coins and tokens can survive the crypto winter and your financial situation allows it, you might keep your existing holdings and put any new money into different forms of wealth-building.
Any kind of investment losses can be beyond disappointing. But if your crypto portfolio is on the rocks, try to see this as an opportunity to put different financial foundations in place — ones that will help you build wealth over time. Crypto prices may come back, but if you have a diversified portfolio and aren’t overly reliant on any single asset, your financial success won’t be dependent on a crypto recovery.