Income Diversification: Building and Shifting Your Income Streams

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Diversification is a concept that I’ve embraced all my life.  In the past, I discussed investment diversification and also touched on the idea of income diversification.  When you think about income…what comes to mind? Most of us will immediately think about our full-time job, and maybe a part-time job.

When you invest, you diversify across different asset classes to reduce risk. The same concept applies for income diversification. You want to diversify your income sources, so you don’t rely only on your job for income.

How to Diversify Your Income Sources

Let’s examine how you can start diversifying your income.  For the majority of younger Americans, the income allocation probably looks something like this:

  • A significant percentage from their job
  • A smaller percentage from their 2nd job (if they have one)
  • A tiny fraction from investments — i.e., interest, dividend, and capital gains

Income Diversification: Building and Shifting Your Income Streams 2

Assuming you already paid down your debt, you could start with the basics to start diversifying your income:

As you build up your investment portfolio, you can also work on other sources of income, such as rental property income and business income.

For example, this is how a more diversified income might look like:

Income Diversification: Building and Shifting Your Income Streams 3

Building Passive Income Streams

Diversifying your income is just the first step. Another equally important goal is to shift your income from active income sources to passive income sources. Shifting toward passive income is essential because to reach financial independence, you need to have enough income generated from passive sources to cover your living expenses.

Here is an image to help you visualize the Active vs. Passive Income Spectrum.

Income Diversification: Building and Shifting Your Income Streams 4

The image above is a simplification that shows active income on the left and passive income on the right. The key difference is how much of your time and energy is required to generate the income:

  • Active Income requires a lot of time and energy. If you stop working, you stop making money.
  • Passive/Investment Income can continue to provide you with income for months or even years with minimal effort.

Below the scale are various income sources:

  • Job – Trading time for wage, tips, salary, or commissions by working for an employer. This is the primary source of income for most of us.
  • Consulting – Trading your time and services for a fee, working for multiple clients.
  • Running a Business – A business that you are heavily involved with, and it couldn’t operate independently without significant involvement from you. For example, this blog is a business that I am growing.
  • Managing Businesses – Partial or full ownership of businesses that can independently operate without your daily involvement, i.e., you have a manager for each business, and you just manage the managers.
  • Real Estate Investing – This ranges from you flipping houses (active), managing rental properties on your own, to owning investment properties managed by Property Managers (more passive).
  • Investments – Examples include investing in stocks, bonds, REITs, as well as lending via Lending Club and Prosper.
  • Royalties – Get paid for your videos, books, artworks, photos, etc. One of my long-term goals is to write a book and make money off royalties.
  • Patents – For the inventors among us, owing Intellectual Property is a way to make money through licensing or building a business around it.

Building, Diversifying, and Shifting Your Income

To reduce the risk of losing your income and work your way toward financial independence, you should proactively build, diversify, and shift your income:

  • Build the income potential of each stream, especially the passive ones.
  • Diversify the numbers of income streams, especially the passive ones.
  • Shift income generation from active toward passive income streams.

Regardless of your current success at your job, it would be a mistake to focus on it exclusively. Even if you already have a few income sources, it would be harmful to grow too comfortable and stop experimenting and diversifying. After all, something that works really well today could fail you tomorrow — e.g., losing your job, your profitable restaurant closed down due to violations, your super stock pick went bust due to fraud, etc.

To get you started, take a look at 40+ Extra Income Ideas and Ways to Make Money.

Are you proactively building, diversifying, and shifting your income streams? If you are or have a plan to do so, I would love to hear about it.

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poor boomer
poor boomer
15 years ago

I’m trying to diversificate my income.

15 years ago

I am currently working on saving as much as possible from my salary and putting the savings in long-term CD ladders plus my rewards checking accounts. I am currently earning about 5% of my total income from interest income.

15 years ago

I absolutely agree that income diversification is important. It is ever more important in this economy. If all of your income stems from one location and you lose your job, you better have an emergency fund. My income comes mostly from my current job, but I also tutor on the side to make extra money. If I lost my job today I would be able to increase my tutoring hours until I found a new job in order to replace some of my income.

15 years ago

An alternative income stream is something I would like to try to establish, although being young it’s difficult because I don’t have the funds or knowledge to dive into a business or rental property. I may be trying my hands on blogging like you, and treat it as a business and hopefully over a year time can turn some side income on. It’s hard to believe that in 2009 two incomes doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

15 years ago

After reading Kyosaki’s book and Robert Allen’s materials a couple of years ago, I decided that I would be in this for the next 10 years minimum. By establishing a long term commitment to alternative streams of income, you will be less likely to give up. This is something we have to work at consistently and patiently. By the time retirement comes, I would like active work to be optional. Having said that, I love working! So I will probably always work, but it is nice for it to be optional.

15 years ago

Diversification is ideal for a lot of people, but I think a lot of us don’t do it because we lack resources or don’t look into it too deeply and procrastinate. Some people don’t even open savings accounts and keep money in checking accounts because they don’t want to go through the hassle. Or, they don’t realize they are missing on savings accounts with higher rates because they don’t know about them. There are always resources people (Ahem, Thrive 🙂 ) and diversification can be done in easy, passive ways and don’t always have to be a headache to think… Read more »

15 years ago

Diversification is great. Many look at diversifing into something that most other people also diversify into. Not always a bad thing. The new savings account is great because $5000 will be tax free. This is great, however one must consider that if the real interest rate is negative, saving is pointless if one is looking for income. So to diversify, one first needs to determine an appropriate portfolio. Real estate is one, stocks another, cash, bonds, and pms for inflation protection. Do you have some in all these asset classes. If one is limited, just stick with something that has… Read more »

15 years ago

I am not sure I understand. Wouldn’t things like CD ladder or dividend stocks be an investment income rather than an alternative income?

14 years ago

The best thing about investments, is that it never gets old. You can’t retire from investing.

12 years ago

What a great concept! Having multiple streams of income is the way to go…ESPECIALLY in this econmoy. Awesome article.

11 years ago

This is something that I feel is sooooo important. I wish more people would blog about this aspect of our personal finances. For me I’ve started to develop a number of alternative income streams, because just like any business, you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket.

15 years ago

Diversification and planning is key. Not only does it make financial sense, but the piece of mind it affords is worth it ten times over. For example, after we saved and achieved our goal of a 6+ month emergency fund, we knew that that if our normal income is disrupted we would have plenty of time to get things on track again. It has enabled us to take risks and make positive changes we would have been too afraid to do before.

Keeping this reserve, building alternative sources online, mystery shops, part time work, are ways we diversify.

Income Diversification: Building and Shifting Your Income Streams

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 3 min
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