I knew I didn't want to work 70 hours a week in finance forever. My body was breaking down, and I was constantly stressed. As a result, I started saving every other paycheck and 100% of my bonus since my first year out of college in 1999. By the time 2012 rolled around, I was earning enough passive income (about $78,000) to negotiate a severance and be free.
However, when you lack the money, you need time. You'll need to invest the upfront time now in order to reap the benefits of automatic income later. It just doesn't happen overnight. So don't expect it to. However, you can do this without quitting your day job. All it takes is some sincere effort over a consistent period, and voila! But, to get there, you'll need to consistently burn the midnight oil or get up at the crack of dawn. Your choice.
As a private lender, you can lend to anyone in your social circle. For example, many home rehabbers need access to a source of capital they can tap into very quickly in order to fund the initial purchase of their properties. You can partner with a rehabber who uses your capital for a short-term in exchange for an interest rate that is mutually agreed upon.
It’s a (mostly) short term, higher risk, higher reward place to invest cash that has a low correlation with the stock market, but is far more passive than buying and managing properties, has more opportunity for diversification than private placements (minimums of 5-10K, rather than 100K), and most of the equity offerings (and all of the debt offerings) provide monthly or quarterly incomes. Unlike a REIT, you can choose exactly which projects you wish to invest in.
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.