John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Selena Maranjian owns shares of Amazon, Costco Wholesale, National Grid, Realty Income, and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, eBay, National Grid, and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale, Lowe's, The TJX Companies, and Welltower. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Real Estate: I currently own one rental property in San Francisco which I bought in 2003 (2/2 condo), one vacation rental in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe (2/2 condo), and my primary residence. Real estate is my favorite asset class to build wealth because it is easy to understand, tangible, provides utility, and rides the way of inflation. I recommend individuals try and get neutral inflation by buying their primary residence as young as possible. The power of inflation is just too hard to counteract.

I wouldn't think of a high yield savings account as a source of passive income but your savings should be getting something (less like Seinfeld syndication residuals and more like a commercial jingle residuals!). It won't make you rich but it's nice if your baseline, risk-free rate of return on cash is 1% or more. The best high yield savings accounts (or money market accounts) offer higher interest rate and there is absolutely no risk. CIT Bank currently leads the pack with the highest interest rate.

In the case of viral marketing, "viral" refers to something that spreads quickly and widely across its audience. Viral marketing is a deliberate enterprise, though the distribution of a message happens organically. As such, social media provides the perfect ecosystem for viral marketing, though it has its roots in traditional word-of-mouth marketing. While the practice was much more widely used in the early to mid-2000s, as new internet businesses were being created in extreme numbers, it is still common among internet-based business-to-consumer (B-to-C) companies. The widespread adoption of social networks, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, has enabled modern viral marketing efforts and increased their efficacy. 
As an struggling young Engineer (back in the Carter era) I bought anything I could renovate then rent to justify paying the 18% interest. I never took vacations but worked on my properties all in the pursuit of passive income. I drove junk for many years & many months I just got by on credit cards. My friends & colleagues were amused by my ‘stupidity’ but most are still working to make enough for retirement.
Question: You mention receiving $200k of passive income a year, but your chart shows half of that coming from real estate holdings, and reading between the lines it appears that you hold mortgages against those holdings. Then you conclude that $200k/yr of passive income should be enough to live comfortably anywhere in the world. So are you subtracting your real estate expenses (taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, maintenance, remote property management company fees, etc.) when you report your passive income from those properties? Really I think it’s the net (after taxes and everything) that tells us what is left over to “spend” on living, right? When I set up my spreadsheet to retire early at age 47, I calculated the after-tax income I would need to live. Then I compared that to my income streams (estimating tax on the taxable income streams) to measure the surplus/shortfall. Also some good advice from GoCurryCracker: If you can minimize your taxes so you’re in the 15% tax bracket, you can possibly receive tax-free long term capital gains. I agree with your philosophy that time is more important than money as we age. I am not sure I agree with a philosophy that is fixated on needing such a large income, and would rather minimize taxes if it’s all the same on the happiness meter. Furthermore, having 20 plus income sources in the name of diversification adds stress and requires more management (TIME!). I think this is fine for those of us while young, as we have the energy to work hard. But as time becomes more important, the extra headache of managing, planning, and buying/selling our assets becomes a resented hindrance on par with the resentment we felt when working for an employer and fighting traffic each day to go to a job we hated. Every thing we own in actuality owns us, by virtue of its demands on our time and affections, and that includes investments. It also includes our home, and is a good reason for downsizing. As long as we have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our bodies, what more do we need? I think we need to consider freeing ourselves from the weight of the chains of managing too many ventures. Personally, I plan on investing in no more than 5 simultaneous ventures ever, with the exception of some IRAs that I just plan to let sit for the next 20 years (and therefore no thought or anxiety required).
There are now two ways to sell on Etsy–physical and digital products. With physical products, you can either create something unique such as jewelry or buy and resell something–for example, vintage clothing. Etsy has been a great marketplace for a long time, helping creative people sell their goods. The problem is, selling physical products isn’t exactly passive income.
I do remember you mentioning that & how it was your ticket to exit softly and give you time to build the passive income side. Most likely when I do exit it will either be through a sale of the business which would come along with a employment contract or if a worthy successor(s) can take it over, then the business is just another annuity throwing off income. Anyway, I’d enjoy writing a guest article after I survive the next few weeks of work and weddings.
There are many ways to “go viral” from a marketing perspective. There are no viral marketing techniques which work for all industries so a tailored approach which includes one or more viral marketing channels is important. Videos are the most popular way, but social media posts, search engine result pages (SERPs), email marketing campaigns and even TV advertisements have created viral, trending content for company, either on purpose or accidently. There are many different types of viral marketing, but they can be lumped into three categories – content created by a business about their products, content created by others about a business’s products, and content that businesses pay influencers to create about their products through advertising and sponsorship. Below we talk about these types of viral marketing to highlight the variety of strategies you could have.
This was a great move for Dove who had become very quiet in the marketplace in the years beforehand. They were able to realign their brand to be all encompassing and to suit young and old women alike. The emotional undertone to the campaign made is hit hard with women no matter what their social standing, religious beliefs, etc. If you plan to carry out a viral marketing campaign similar to this example be careful not to inadvertently distance yourself from certain social groups by appearing too up market or shabby.
Other stores with associated credit cards include Target, Costco, Gap, Lowe's, TJX, Toys R Us, and Wal-Mart. Many offer 3% to 5% in cash back or discounted prices, and many offer other perks, too, such as free shipping on items purchased at the sponsoring retailer, while others might let you return items without a receipt, or will donate money to charity whenever you use the card. If you travel a lot, you can use travel-related credit cards to rack up lots of points and rewards that can be used instead of cash, keeping more cash in your pocket.
Viral marketing is a continual, interactive process. A company that implements a viral compaign shouldn't simply let it run its course without adjustment. The Blair Witch campaign remained active on Internet message boards, interacting with real fans and regularly updating websites with more information based on fan discussions. It, like most viral campaigns, succeeded because it grew along with the interest in the product.
Question: You mention receiving $200k of passive income a year, but your chart shows half of that coming from real estate holdings, and reading between the lines it appears that you hold mortgages against those holdings. Then you conclude that $200k/yr of passive income should be enough to live comfortably anywhere in the world. So are you subtracting your real estate expenses (taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, maintenance, remote property management company fees, etc.) when you report your passive income from those properties? Really I think it’s the net (after taxes and everything) that tells us what is left over to “spend” on living, right? When I set up my spreadsheet to retire early at age 47, I calculated the after-tax income I would need to live. Then I compared that to my income streams (estimating tax on the taxable income streams) to measure the surplus/shortfall. Also some good advice from GoCurryCracker: If you can minimize your taxes so you’re in the 15% tax bracket, you can possibly receive tax-free long term capital gains. I agree with your philosophy that time is more important than money as we age. I am not sure I agree with a philosophy that is fixated on needing such a large income, and would rather minimize taxes if it’s all the same on the happiness meter. Furthermore, having 20 plus income sources in the name of diversification adds stress and requires more management (TIME!). I think this is fine for those of us while young, as we have the energy to work hard. But as time becomes more important, the extra headache of managing, planning, and buying/selling our assets becomes a resented hindrance on par with the resentment we felt when working for an employer and fighting traffic each day to go to a job we hated. Every thing we own in actuality owns us, by virtue of its demands on our time and affections, and that includes investments. It also includes our home, and is a good reason for downsizing. As long as we have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our bodies, what more do we need? I think we need to consider freeing ourselves from the weight of the chains of managing too many ventures. Personally, I plan on investing in no more than 5 simultaneous ventures ever, with the exception of some IRAs that I just plan to let sit for the next 20 years (and therefore no thought or anxiety required).
So many great tips in this big post, thanks! I think it’s so true that people should focus on the things they do well at and are interested in. And yes save, save, save in the beginning and throughout. I have several interest and dividend earning investments and am looking to expand further. Diversification is a great goal for all of us so we can avoid having all our eggs in one basket.
However, I think for those who are willing to do what it takes, the sky is the absolute limit. As an example, I’m trying to take a page out of FinancialSamauri’s book and create an online personal finance and investing blog. It is an enormous undertaking, and as a new blogger, there is a seemingly endless amount of work to be done. That said, I hope that one day I can not only generate some passive income from the hours of work I have put and will put into the project, but I hope to be able to help OTHERS reach their financial goals.
Real Estate: I currently own one rental property in San Francisco which I bought in 2003 (2/2 condo), one vacation rental in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe (2/2 condo), and my primary residence. Real estate is my favorite asset class to build wealth because it is easy to understand, tangible, provides utility, and rides the way of inflation. I recommend individuals try and get neutral inflation by buying their primary residence as young as possible. The power of inflation is just too hard to counteract.
Another great way to get started is to identify an area of interest you have. For instance, Robert Duff has been successful in building passive income by selling books on Amazon. Then, go out and start talking to people. Ask them, “What are you struggling with right now? What are your biggest pains? What’s something you wish existed that doesn’t?” That’ll give you some ideas about where to get started.
Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

Accept this fact. Some viral marketing strategies work better than others. Few work as well as the simple Hotmail strategy. But below are the six basic elements you hope to include in your strategy. A viral marketing strategy need not contain all these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be. An effective viral marketing strategy:

To fully understand the model, it’s useful to look at the second, and subsequent, cycles of growth. In the model above, only the new customers that were added in the prior cycle send out invitations. This is because it is highly unlikely that the entire population will continue to send out invitations every cycle. Every time I have looked at other blog articles or formula for Viral Growth, they appear to have gotten this part of the calculation wrong.


But first, let’s about talk passive income! What is passive income? There are many different definitions out there, but mine goes something like this: Passive income is all about building online businesses that can work for you, that allow you to generate income, and grow and scale, without a real-time presence. In other words, you don’t trade time for money. You build something up front that can continue to work for you over time.

So many great tips in this big post, thanks! I think it’s so true that people should focus on the things they do well at and are interested in. And yes save, save, save in the beginning and throughout. I have several interest and dividend earning investments and am looking to expand further. Diversification is a great goal for all of us so we can avoid having all our eggs in one basket.
The first time I did affiliate marketing was way back in the day on my architecture exam website. I connected with a company that sold practice exams, which gave me $22 for every person who bought one of their exams via my site. Since then, I’ve generated over $250,000 simply by recommending that product alone. Again, this is a product that was not mine, but one that has still been helpful to my audience. This was all done with thousands of visitors a month. Not millions, or even hundreds of thousands.
I enjoy how you lay out real numbers. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. While you admit that you are somewhat conservative, I think the $1M in CD’s is just too conservative. Assuming you don’t need the cash flow now (which you say you just save anyways) then all that could be invested for potentially higher returns. For example, what if you bought San Francisco real estate along the way instead of CD’s. Or, an SP500 Index fund. I bet your average return would have been higher than 3.75%. Sure you could lose it, but the point is if you don’t need the cash flow now, you should try to increase that nut as high as possible until the day you actually need it. Your nut could be $5M right now if you had invested in asset classes other than CD’s for the last 14 years. Don’t get me wrong, you have done far better than me, but I guess I would take a little more risk if you don’t rely on that cash flow.
Businesses that start with a large audience are more likely to reach viral content fame organically (without paid tactics) because their audience propels their content forward. Businesses that are starting with a smaller audience may want to invest in paid promotion methods to ensure that their content reaches the most people possible to help it spread quickly.
Venture Debt – I invested $120,000 in my business school friend’s venture debt fund. He started his own after spending 8 years at one of the largest venture debt funds as a Managing Partner. I’m very focused on income generating assets in this low interest rate environment. The true returns are yet to be seen, as the fund has a 5-7 year life before it returns all its capital.
Speaking of credit cards, if you don't use them to rack up debt, you can instead use them to generate income streams for you -- via their cash-back or rewards programs. Some cards offer flat-rate cash-back percentages up to about 2%. Others target certain kinds of spending or certain retailers. If you spend a lot at Amazon.com, for example, you can get a card that rewards you with 5% cash back there -- which can really add up. (It's not hard to spend $250 per month at Amazon, which is $3,000 per year -- enough to earn $150 back.)
I had to get out. I actually had this random Facebook ad come up in my news feed (go figure) and it eventually led me to a webinar that taught on how to start an email marketing business (which is, by the way, the most profitable form of affiliate marketing – or ANY marketing for that matter). I listened through the whole 2 hours, completely mesmerized. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to be focusing on to help my family out of the pit of debt we were in and into a world free of financial stress. I didn’t know if it would actually work, but eventually it lead to EXCESS income!
Blooom: Blooom works very differently from many of the other robo-advisors. It helps specifically with your employer-sponsored accounts (401k, 403b, 401a, and 457 accounts). Blooom will go through all the investment choices and make adjustments for you. The service also automatically rebalances the account as it grows. Blooom is very inexpensive when compared to a traditional advisor at only $10 per month no matter how large your 401k grows.
Another way to generate passive income is to invest and be a silent partner in a business. This is very risky, but with risk comes the potential for high returns. For example, several years ago both Lyft and Uber were looking for private investors to invest in their companies. Today, they are worth billions - but you as an investor would only reap that benefit if they go public via an IPO, or get acquired. So, it's risky.
Humor: Old Spice’s viral video marketing campaign used humor to great effect. They had to. After all, there aren’t many other interesting ways to promote a deodorant / body wash. But they did it with a knowing smirk. The brand didn’t mind poking fun at itself. And it worked. The usage of humor introduced the brand to a younger, Internet-savvy audience.
One great way to generate a passive income is through affiliate marketing. Now, this does depend on the size of your list. Yes, size matters when it comes to your list. Especially if you're looking to make some serious money and do it on autopilot. But, list-building takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. And you need to add value to your list or you become obsolete.
Although it would be nice to earn little bit of extra income without putting in any effort, you’re going to have to put in some effort at the beginning. First, you must be clear about why you want to earn passive income. Is it that you want to support your existing lavish shopping? Is it that you feel uncertain about the future and want to have alternative sources of income? Are you finding it hard to earn enough regular income to support your family and yourself, therefore you need extra passive income?

What happens if you have attrition in your customer base over time. An easy way to extend the model to take this into consideration would be to add a variable to model Attrition Rate as a percentage of the entire installed base at each cycle, and simply subract this from the total population at each cycle. This topic is nicely covered in this blog post by Andrew Chen: Is your website a leaky bucket? 4 scenarios for user retention.


Blogging is still going to take work starting out. That path to $5,000 a month didn’t happen overnight but just like real estate development, it build up an asset that now creates constant cash flow whether I work or not. I get over 30,000 visitors a month from Google search rankings, rankings that will continue to send traffic even if I take a little time off.

But you have to admire the virus. It has a way of living in secrecy until it is so numerous that it wins by sheer weight of numbers. It piggybacks on other hosts and uses their resources to increase its tribe. And in the right environment, it grows exponentially. A virus doesn’t even have to mate. It just replicates again and again, doubling with each iteration.
×