There is a specific tax definition of passive income, known as “passive activity” to the Internal Revenue Service. Passive income is any income you make without actively working or are materially involved. The IRS defines it as any rental activity or any business in which the taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Nonpassive activities, or active activities, are businesses in which the taxpayer works on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.

“[T]he stream of continuing payments that are earned by Brad and/or Karen from the commissions (current and future) earned by the brokers within a book of business. Residual income arises from all sources of income relating to or derived from an identified book of business, including commissions earned by the brokers within that identified book of business from any source whatsoever.”


Don’t do vending machines as passive income. I thought it was passive but it’s way more than that. You have to work all the time. If you get a good account, you’ll be there twice a week. Want another job as a stable income? Good luck. What do you tell your boss when you have to go fix your machine because a dollar got stuck and is only open during normal business hours?

Risk: The tricky part is choosing the right stocks. Graves warns that too many novices jump into the market without thoroughly investigating the company issuing the stock. “You’ve got to investigate each company’s website and be comfortable with their financial statements,” Graves says. “You should spend two to three weeks investigating each company.”
I agree mostly with the real estate advice. I’m looking for ways to take advantage of the condo I own to get up the rent from ~$0.90/ft to the $1.2-1.5/ft that seems more like the range in the same area. I’d have to put in a bit of capital (probably 10k on the low end for just the basics up to 40k if I wanted to remodel the kitchen and 2 bathrooms up to par with the area), so the return is likely there if those upgrades warrant $1.30/ft (given the unit is larger than most 2br/2ba in the area).
My favorite type of semi-passive income was rental property because it was a tangible asset that provided reliable income. As I grew older, my interest in rental property waned because I no longer had the patience and time to deal with maintenance issues and tenants. Online real estate became more attractive, along with tax-free municipal-bond income once rates started to rise.
Think of the money. Of course, not all niches, no matter how specialized, are profitable. Some don’t have that powerful of an industry attached to them. Others are simply too scientific, academic, esoteric, or, conversely, over-exploited. To get a feel of the niches you’ve narrowed your list down to, you have several types of tools at your disposal:
Real estate is the obvious choice if you are going to make money on your money. I personally am not at the point where I can do any of this in a meaningful way BUT my parents are and they now own a couple homes outright and are collecting income from them to power their retirement income. It makes a lot more sense for anyone that has a chunk of cash sitting in the bank and are planning on slowly drawing from it because you technically still have all that money in a property (or multiple properties) and can sell them if you really need the lump sum of cash but you’ll earn great interest payments until you do that.
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