To find the best passive income ideas using upfront money, I spent 1-week of research online coupled with years of experience that let me be financially secure.
The Internal Revenue System has done a study on passive income . The whole goal of passive income is to not be actively involved to generate the income. It means ideally to set it and forget it. This does not include active time-consuming activities like stock picking, active real estate management, or online courses.
The Gist (“Too Long Didn’t Read” version of the article)
Most online platforms listed in this article show average returns. That is the percentage of the amount invested that can be earned in a year if money is deposited there. The financial upfront investment can be in cash or in things you can rent.
1 Advertising in your car, home or building
If you are a long-time commuter, you can get into an advertising campaign. Avoid untrustworthy ad campaigns. For that, use reliable tools like Carvertise. This site claims that its users can earn from $350 to $1,500 per ad campaign. Wrapify on the other hand pays progressively as its users drive more and more. It offers different payment amounts (from $170 to $450 per month) based on how much advertising covers the car. One-third site is Vugo and pays up to $300 per month.
2 CD or Bond Ladder/Annuities
“Ladder” refers to the different duration. For instance, in the case of bonds, they can be composed of periods of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10 years. In that case, when the first bond matures (that of 1 year), the “ladder” still contains bonds that will mature in 2, 4, 6, and 9 years. This is useful because it reduces the risk of reinvesting money when bonds offer too low-interest payments. These principles can be applied to the CD ladder, bond ladder, or annuities ladder.
The 3 options (bonds, CDs, and annuities) offer low returns but also low risks involved. As they are penalties for withdrawing the money before the agreed duration, use only money you know you will not need in the short term. Any alternative could include fees. To avoid them, pay attention to the related fees and withdrawal conditions. For instance, Cit Bank and Ally Bank have no penalty for CD withdrawal after 6 days of deposit.
Bonds are created by governments and enterprises as a means of getting the financing they need. Two of their key factors are the interest rate and the bond duration. The interest rate states how much money will be paid to the investor who bought the bond. The duration states when the bond reaches maturity and expires. Bonds are considered fixed income and a good way to limit the volatility of other asset classes like stocks. The New York University states the bond returns range between 1% to 4% .
Municipal bonds can be tax-free if you live in the city issuing the bond. For instance, you can live in New York and acquire BlackRock’s New York Municipal Opportunities Fund. This is a good example of bonds grouped in funds. Not only individual bonds. In general, funds are useful for people not having the time to analyze individual bonds. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) can also group bonds and can have lower fees than mutual funds. Examples of bond mutual funds include Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX) and Vanguard Short-Term Investment-Grade Fund (VFSTX). Bond ETFs examples are Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) and Fidelity Corporate Bond ETF (FCOR).
One risk with bonds is the one linked to interest rate risk. In the context of rising interest rates, the bond’s value will decrease because investors will acquire mostly newer and newer bonds.
Consider that treasury bonds are backed by the federal government. On the contrary, corporate bonds rely on a company. So, bonds buyers could lose their money if the company defaults.
Certificates of Deposit (CDs) and Annuities
They are similar to savings with a peculiarity. The certificates’ owners are not allowed to use the funds on the certificates before their planned duration (maturity) ends. The planned duration is defined at the account opening needed to hold the certificates of deposit. The possible duration can be from a few months to a few years. Typically in multiples of 6 months.
Their return has been below 2% since 2011 .
To avoid the risk of losing money deposited, check whether the financial institution is insured by the FDIC. It covers up to $250,000.
3 Dividend stocks/ETFs/index Funds
All of them rely on stocks, those are financial instruments that enterprises decide to offer in a stock market to let investors buy and sell them.
To incentivize investors, many stocks offer dividends. That is a payment (typically quarterly) that is offered to investors who own those stocks.
Choosing the right dividend stocks is a time-consuming activity. For instance, you should pay attention to the payout over earnings ratio. If a company offers a ratio over 100%, it means that they are paying more in dividends than they have earned. Most probably, the company will not be able to sustain those amounts for many years. Also, check the long-term trend for a stock. Is it growing or decreasing recently? One example of dividend stock paying a high dividend is Annaly Capital Management, paying 10.21% during 2021 NLY.
Keep in mind that holding the stocks for an extended period of time can make you qualify for long-term capital gains when you sell. That tax bracket is lower than income tax. So, do your due research on the IRS web page to ensure you comply with taxes.
In general, stock markets are impacted by economic context. They can be good and enhance progress but are also impacted by economic downturns like recessions and corrections. Tony Robbins states that a correction happens once per year on average and a recession once in 10 years on average . You could prepare yourself to expect those downturns without impulsively selling your assets that are worthy in the long term.
To avoid the time needed for picking the right dividend stocks, it is possible to choose from ETFs. They group many dividend stocks and provide an easy way for investors to get diversification. One example of dividend-focused mutual funds is Vanguard Dividend Growth Investors Fund (VDIGX). And for ETFs, Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG) and Fidelity NASDAQ Composite Index (ONEQ)
Low-cost index funds like VTI or VTSAX have almost zero probability of losing everything thanks to diversification as Investopedia affirms . Investing for 20 years in a passive index fund can beat most actively managed funds .
You can check the list of Dividend Aristocrats. This is the list of 65 companies (as of 2021 ) that have increased their dividends every year for 25 years. If one company stopped dividends during 1 year it will be out of the list. As of 2021, the company on the list with the highest dividend is AT&T  with 7.38% . There is also a list called dividend king, for stocks increasing dividends for 50 years that you might want to consider. To simplify selection, there exist ETFs such as FT CBOE Vest S&P 500® Dividend Aristocrats Target Income ETF® (KNG) and ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats (NOBL).
Many tools exist to hold those ETFs in online brokerages like TD Ameritrade, E-Trade, DeGiro for Europe, M1 Finance, and WeBull (offering 1 free stock). Also, specific low-cost alternatives like BourseDirect en France. To test your strategies without spending money, use the eToro Free $100,000 demo account.
4 Flip websites/domain names/Build website
Flipping websites is buying an existing website and selling it later for a higher price. If you love improving websites, this is a perfect choice. As you can improve it and then sell it higher. It is possible to provide services such as operational or social media consulting in exchange for a share of the business’ cash-flows. Or you can directly buy a part of the business in a private deal.
Keep in mind that sites generally are sold for 24 times their monthly income. If a site generates $500 per month, you could buy it for no more than $12,000. It means that a $12,000 investment will give you $6000 cash-flow per year.
Be careful not to get overwhelmed by improving the site as it can become highly time-consuming.
Concerning the tools, you can sell your website in Shopify’s Exchange Marketplace. And Flippa lets you buy and sell over 6,000 sites as of June 2021.
5 High yield CD/saving account/money market
For those options, online banks offer typically the lowest fees. You can check whether bonuses are available on account opening using Bank Bonus. It is possible to earn up to 1.78%, but check whether those accounts are insured by FDIC . Banks backed by FDIC are covered up to $250,000, money market not always .
You could consider tools like Chime, providing 0.5% return, and Credit Union Netspend for 5%.
6 Invest automatically in stocks with robo advisors
When joining an enterprise as an employee, consider asking for company stocks as part of your hiring package. The company stocks could increase in value in the future. Another option is Robo advisors. Based on the criteria you define, it offers an investment strategy that can be consistently applied.
In the last 10, 20, and 50 years, the S&P has averaged 10% return . So, to earn $100 per month you could invest $7.5k for 5 years with compounding or $5k for 10 years with compounding .
This method avoids stock picking. Warren Buffett does it but he reads 500 pages a day of financial statements to know how to properly invest. That is considered active investing.
Betterment offers Robo advisors charging fees from 0.25% to 0.4%. They are lower than those charged by actively managed funds but higher than those charged by ETFs. Betterment offers no fee on the first $10,000 invested. Another alternative is Bloom, convenient for 401k as it identifies hidden fees in your 401k. They have fixed fees starting at $45 per year .
7 P2P lending
Peer to Peer (P2P) lending means lending money to people and businesses. Many people use these platforms as they do not qualify for a usual bank loan, so those can be risky. Also, crises like Covid make them even riskier as people might have a lack of income.
Prosper offers an average 5.5% return starting at $25 per loan. It lets you analyze historical data of prospective borrowers. That lets you avoid high indebted individuals having high debt-to-income ratios or low incomes.
Worthy bonds, offering an average 5% return (Not FDIC insured).
PeerStreet, claiming a median 8.2% return .
MyConstant offers loans backed with collateral (cryptos are guarantees of payment). Nevertheless, it is not FDIC insured. It claims return can be up to 7% and 4% for depositing USD [16, 17]. You can use a pool of loans, as opposed to Prosper, where you invest in 1 loan at a time for a given amount.
8 REITs/Crowdfunding Real Estate
REIT stands for Real Estate Investment Trust. This means that a company acquires and manages real estate on behalf of investors. From the income they get, REITs are obliged to give at least 90% to shareholders. That must be done to avoid being taxed as a partnership (no corporate tax needed) . REITs investors are then able to diversify their investments in real estate instead of buying one single property. Owning and managing one property is expensive, lacks diversification, and is time-consuming to manage directly. REITs let investors avoid all that.
It is also possible to use ETFs that contain REITs. This allows bigger diversification. One mutual fund is Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund (VGSLX).
Fundrise is open to non-accredited investors from $500. They claim to have returns of 9.4%. .
PeerStreet is open for investors from $1k to lend money and finance property buying.
Diversyfund is open for investors from $500. They invest in multi-family units such as apartment buildings. They improve properties in around 5 years while yielding cash returns and then sell the properties for capital gains.
GroundFloor claims 10 % annual returns on average and is open to investors from $10. They repair properties for 12 months and provide cash returns to investors during that time. Their circulars and other documents reported to SEC are properly listed on their site.
Streitwise requires a $5,000 minimum investment. It offers REITs and claims in its site have provided dividends of over 8.4% in 2021Q2, despite Covid’s effect. They avoid complicated fees and state them clearly: 3% upfront and 2% ongoing .
For more advanced individual picking options for passive income, you could consider mortgage notes (also called real estate lien notes and borrower’s notes). This is a promissory note backed by a mortgage loan. Beware of tax liens and do your due diligence in research before acquiring them.
9 Rental Income/storage space/property value appreciation
It is possible to outsource property management and maintenance tasks to get a passive investment. If not, you might end up taking a lot of effort in managing property and tenants. The pandemic has added more challenges to tenants. Many might end up not being able to pay rent. And due to legal protections and eviction moratoriums you could be forbidden to vacate the property.
Clearly identify your investment returns goal and the costs (mortgage, taxes, and related expenses). For instance, you might want to get $12,000 in rental cash flow. In this example, we assume the monthly mortgage is $3,000 plus $500 to taxes and related real estate expenses. This means that you need to charge $4,500 monthly rent to reach your goal.
There are many online platforms like Roofstock for single-family homes. Also, RealtyMogul is available for crowdfunding and has recently lowered the entry requirements to $1,000 for an average return of 5.4% .
US Farmland: Farmland, Farm Together, AcreTrader
For accredited Investors (yearly income of more than $200k): EquityMultiple
1 in 11 Americans pays for storage space . One tool to invest in it is Neighbor.com.
10 Rent car/car sharing/parking space
They are all related to cars. Keep in mind that a car’s value decreases faster as it is used. So, the income made from renting the car should be higher than depreciation . Check your insurance terms to be sure you are not losing coverage if something occurs when the car is rented. Insurers might ask for a special insurance policy for ride-sharing or car renting to honor insurance claims. That might add to the current vehicle costs like washing, insurance, repairs, maintenance, etc.
Renting comes with the risk of renters damaging the car. But to cover you from that risk, Turo is insured up to $1M if the car rented is bought after 2005 and has less than 130k miles used. Other companies for car renting are Getaround and HyreCar, which rents cars for services such as Uber, DoorDash, and Instacart.
Avoids the risk of renting a car that could be damaged. You could offer the space in public offering sites like Craigslist, LeBonCoin in France, PetitesAnnonces and Anibis in Switzerland, MercadoLibre in Latin America, etc.
Stow It specializes in vehicle storage. The listing of your space is free and it charges a 10% fee on rentals. Other alternatives are Parqex, Curbflip, SpotHero (acquired Roverparking), and Pavemint which can vet users, insure and collect payments.
11 Rent home or unused space
Useful when you go on vacation as rental income can pay for your trip if you leave or just increase your income if you stay there but have unused space to rent. If your unused space can hold an event, you can use ShareMySpace. It lets you offer your available square footage to anyone. Keep in mind that if a renter wants to sub-rent to someone else, the owner’s authorization is required.
Renters could damage the property. But services like SpareRoom and Cozy help you advertise your space and identify bad tenants.
AirBnB is one of the most well-known platforms to rent. It is available in more than 220 countries and has enabled 4 million hosts to welcome 900 million arrivals since its creation in 2007 . The company has created “AirBnB Experiences” to allow users to host events, meetups, and tours in a city. AirBnB’s fees are 3% on every booking done through their services . One alternative is VRBO, which charges 5% per booking, and 3% additional if the guest pays with a credit card . Another is Vacasa, which is focused on vacation home rental.
12 Rent household items
You can rent items like lawnmowers, power tools, mechanic tools, tents, coolers, etc. Many platforms exist to rent those items. You can use them directly to rent or use them as a means to reach your customers and establish the renting separately. But know that there is a risk of property damaged or stolen and a liability for risky tools like power tools.
In any case, websites can be specialized in specific types of items like baby gear in babyequip.com. It includes insurance on items rented . Others are Frindswitha and PeerRenters for all types of equipment and Spinlister for sports items such as surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, snowboards, or skis. The company charges 17.5% on rental but claims its users can rent a bike for $500 per month.
Specifically for clothes, StyleLend put people in contact to rent designer dresses and accessories. Also, RentNotBuy focuses on designer brands that rent much more easily (Oliva, Alice, Eliza J, Chanel) than fast fashion (Forever21, H&M).
13 Saving apps/cashback sites
We all spend money. So why not get something back thanks to cashback apps like TopCashBack, sites, or credit cards rewards. For the latter, it is useful only if you pay off your cards every month. You could choose the one with a reward program related to your spending. For instance, if you travel a lot, a credit card that gives more rewards for frequent travelers could be better.
Avoid getting too many cards to not drop your credit score. And beware of apps that are not seriously concerned about privacy. Also, do not buy more only to get the cashback. The financial benefit exists only for items you were to buy anywhere.
14 Buy a Passive Business
Common examples are car washes, vending machines, laundromats, food trucks, billboards, etc.
Sites like Gumball.com let you buy vending machines. Then you are responsible for keeping it stocked to let hungry and thirsty people buy its items.
Companies like ATM Money Machine let people buy ATMs starting at $1,399 that can then be offered to the public and let their owners earn fees. They require an agreement with a financial institution and permit acquisition.
For billboards, FitSmallBusiness lists detailed estimates for physical billboards rented from $500 per month to digital ones going from $750 to more than $14,000 depending on location.
15 Cryptos and alternative investments
Cryptocurrencies can be stored to earn interest on them using platforms like BlockFi Interest Account that are not FDIC insured. On the contrary, Nexo has its deposits insured by Lloyd’s bank for up to $100 million . Join Nexo and receive $25 in BTC
Alternative investments include high-end art with MasterWorks that is opened to investors from $1,000 and fine wine investing with Vinovest starting at $1,000.
What is the next step?
Avoid trying all ideas at once to not feel overwhelmed. You might end up doing nothing. Conversely, pick one and establish a passive income source. Then build on it or pick another once the first is set and ready to go on without your active involvement.
In the US, the IRS provides retirement plans for self-employed people. Retirement accounts typically have tax advantages like Individual Retirement Account (IRA), Roth IRA, and Simplified Employee Pension IRA (SEP-IRA) that let you contribute the lesser between $58,000 and 25% of your business income in a given year. If you want to calculate your pension in Ireland, check this tool to calculate your pension
If you want to invest more time than money, check our article on how to make passive income and ideas to make passive income.
 Internal Revenue System, Over the Top: How Tax Returns Show that the Very
Rich Are Different from You and Me; at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/14rpoverthetopbournerosenmerkel.pdf (visited July 31, 2021).
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 Peer Street, Insight into Peer Street’s Loan Performance Q4 2020; at https://www.peerstreet.com/blog/q4-2020-performance-data (visited July 31, 2021).
 My Constant, Lend money online to earn up to 20x better interest than a Certificate of deposit (CD); at https://www.myconstant.com/lend-money-online-to-earn-interest (visited July 31, 2021).
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