21 Best Passive Income Ideas for 2020

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Passive income can be described as income that you receive regularly but does not require a lot of work to sustain it — money that you continue to make whether you work or not. Although there are many different ways to make money, we will focus on money-making ideas that don’t require as much ongoing effort to keep it producing money (i.e., it is not a job). Of course, many of these ideas require effort upfront, and many require financial investment, but they can make you money even while you are asleep once you put them in place.

Passive income is a crucial component to help you reach financial independence and retire early — specifically, once you can cover 100% of your living expenses with passive income, you can quit your job! Now, let’s get started.

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Easy Passive Income Ideas for Beginners

This group contains QUICK WINS ideas that everyone should be able to implement right away. They are alternative ways to do what you’re already doing so that you can get money from these routine activities.

1. Earn Higher Interest on Your Savings

Is your savings account earning you more than 2% interest? If not, one of the easiest ways to increase your passive income is to shift your savings to a bank that pays a higher yield on your savings — some of the banks on our list pays as high as 2.5% which is way higher than a typical savings account.

Although it doesn’t sound like much, little things do add up, and this doesn’t take that much effort.

Some banks will also pay you a signup bonus, so be on the lookout for that!

2. Earn More from Your Checking

If you have a lot of money in your checking account, there are some outstanding checking accounts out there. However, you will have to follow some of their basic rules to be eligible for the best rate. For example, use their debit card X times a month, set up a direct deposit, set up an online statement, etc.

3. Build a CD Ladder

For a slightly higher yield than savings and checking, build a CD ladder.  Break your money into smaller chunks and buy a series of high yield certificates of deposit.

4. Get Cash Back Reward from Credit Cards

You buy stuff every day, why not make the most of your purchases?

Look for a credit card that pays cashback on your purchases. When you make your day-to-day purchases, use a reward card, and get money back. Some credit cards offer as high as 5% on selected categories or merchants on a rotating basis, and some will have a limit on the amount of cashback you can earn (so you might want to have several cards to maximize the cashback).

My family gets several hundred dollars a year from using these cards.

5. Get Cash Rebates When Buying Online

When you shop online, go through Rakuten, formerly Ebates (get $10 right now just for signing up!)

This web site provides you with extra cashback (on top of your credit card cashback) when you buy through them. You can install the browser toolbar or extension for even a better result. As a bonus, you also get extra money when you refer Rakuten to your friends.

Another similar service is MyPoints — check out both and see which one you like best.

6. Earn Gift Cards When You Search

You probably do a couple of web searches each day. If you do all your web searches through Swagbucks.com (instead of Google or Bing), you can collect points called SwagBucks. Trade your SwagBucks for a variety of prizes, including gift cards for Amazon.com, Walmart, PayPal, and more.

Passive Income Ideas through Investing

Why is saving and investing important? The money that you save and invest has the potential to earn you more money than you ever could by working. For example, my net worth grew $350,000 so far this year, and I certainly did not make that from my job.

Early in your life, you will want to invest mainly for appreciation and then slowly convert it to income generation as you get older. Here are ideas to help you create passive income through investing.

1. Take Advantage of 401(k) Matching

This one is a deferred gratification; however, you’ll be missing out on a lot of money if you don’t take advantage of this free money. If your company offers a matching 401(k) contribution, at the minimum, you should contribute enough to get all of the matching money. That money and yours will grow in your retirement account and be there for you once you reached retirement age.

When I used to work my corporate job, my company matched the first 6%, so I was getting between $3,600 to $6,000 a year while I was there. Last year, my wife got over $2,000 from her company!

2. Invest in Dividend Paying Stocks or Funds

If you’re looking for current income, investing in the dividend-paying stocks (or better yet, use dividend ETFs) is an excellent way to earn money regularly. Pay particular attention to the S&P Dividend Aristocrats; these are companies that have long histories of increasing their dividend payouts each year.

For example, one of my holdings is the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY), which pays dividends quarterly. As of this writing, it pays a 2.39% dividend by investing in high-quality companies.

3. Invest in Bonds or Bond Funds

As part of healthy investment diversification, you want to have some bonds to go with your stock investments. You don’t want to have too much early in your investing career, but as you get closer to your retirement, your bond investments will become a significant income generator.

Here is the portfolio I manage for my parents that have 25% Bonds Allocation with some dividend ETFs and a REIT. It generates almost $1,200 a month in dividend income!

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4. Invest in REITs

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty with rental properties, you can gain exposure to real estate investing through Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). REITs invest in real estate and mortgages and payout 90% of the taxable income to shareholders annually. REITs trade like stocks and funds, so it is straightforward to invest in them.

Before I got into rental properties and investing in real estate syndication, I used to invest in Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ), which currently has an effective yield of 3.12%.

5. Rental Properties

This requires a bit of upfront work and money to identify the right rental property. Once you have the right tenant in place, this becomes a mostly passive income stream that just needs occasional maintenance.

Currently, we invest in a couple of rental properties and earn about $500 per month profit from each property. Our best rental has an annualized return of 25.5% for the past seven years!

6. Rent Out Parts of Your House

You can rent out just about any unused space in your house if you’re comfortable with the idea. As long as it is not short term rentals (think Airbnb and VRBO), this is a relatively passive activity. Some of the spaces you can rent out include:

  • A room or two in your house
  • Your garage or parking space
  • Your basement
  • Your storage shed

7. Real Estate Crowdfunding and Syndication

If you like real estate investing, you can also look into crowdfunding through sites like FundRise or RealtyMogul. You can do this by joining their platform and invest in the available opportunities.

Another option is to go through a real estate syndication. For example, I am currently an owner of a tiny fraction of an $8 million apartment complex in Arizona, by investing through a Capital Partners group.

Here is A Beginner’s Guide on Real Estate Investing.

8. Lend Money via Social Lending Network

Prosper and Lending Club are peer-to-peer lending platforms where you can lend your money to other people. You’re the bank. Each note is only $25, so you can invest $1,000 and lend money to 40 people. There are many grades of loan (from safest to riskiest) and investors earn, on average, between 5% and 7% annualized returns.

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Income Ideas that Could Become Passive in the Future

Some income ideas require a lot of work upfront (almost like a job) that could then later become more passive, requiring less work to maintain the same amount of income or even to grow it. There is no need to quit your full-time job (or your side gigs) when you start pursuing these ideas. It will take time and effort before any of these bear fruit, but once they get going, they could generate a nice income stream with very little maintenance work. Some of these ideas include:

1. Make Money Blogging

This blog has been providing me with daily income since 2007. Here is a short guide I wrote on how to make money blogging to get you started with blogging and making money with it.

You should also look at these articles to learn more about blogging for money:

2. Make Money with YouTube

With nothing more than your smartphone, you could make videos and start posting them on YouTube. Just like blogging, you should be making videos about what you know and love. This way, you’ll have a better chance of gaining subscribers to your YouTube Channel.

You will need to have some success with the channel already before you can start to make money with it. According to YouTube’s Monetization page:

You can apply for monetization at any time. To be reviewed, all channels need at least 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. This requirement allows us to properly evaluate new channels and helps protect the creator community.

3. Write a Book

If you write a book, you can earn royalties for as long as people keep purchasing it. Many great authors receive monthly royalty checks for books they wrote twenty years prior. Even if your book in not on the best seller’s list, you still have a good chance of earning a passive income from it. For example, some of our Authors have books that they are selling on Amazon, check out these author profiles:

They each have one or more books they are selling.

4. Network Marketing

When you become a network marketer, your goal is not just to sell the products; you will also work to recruit other people to become an affiliate, as well. When they sell anything, you earn a percentage of their commission.  With enough recruits in your downline, you could earn several thousand dollars a month in passive income.

If you go this route, pick legitimate companies like Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, etc. — just watch out for scams and hype.

We have a friend who does this very successfully with Amway, and another who is working with Rodan and Field.

5. Selling Insurance

When you sell insurance, every time one of your customers renews their insurance, you will earn another commission. Yes, it takes a lot of work at the beginning, but once you have enough policies in place, you will start to collect residual income each year that they renew.

For example, my wife’s family owns an insurance agency, and agents earn a significant portion of their income from the annual renewals.

Reverse Passive Income (by Reducing Expenses)

As you already know a dollar saved is more than a dollar earned because you don’t have to pay taxes on the money you saved.

If you’re in a 22-24% tax bracket, you’d have to earn on average $1.55 to save $1 because of all the taxes you’re paying. Therefore, if you can save $1 in recurring expenses, you effectively earned $1.55. Here are some big-ticket items to consider.

1. Refinance Your Home Loan

This one can produce a massive saving, but you have to consider the pros and cons of refinancing carefully. If it is the right move for you, now is a great time to refinance your mortgage. If you reduce your monthly payment by $400, you’re basically earning $620 per month in passive income. Not bad for just going down the road to talk to your bank.

While you’re at it, look into cutting another major household-related cost…your insurance.

2. Reduce Phones and Cable Bills

Another significant recurring expense is your cell phone plan and your cable/internet plan. If you can manage to save $75 from these two plans, you’ve just earned yourself $116 in monthly passive income.

You get the idea about cutting expenses to increase your passive income; the article below has some more expense reduction ideas.

Bottom Line

As most people already work forty to fifty hours each week, the last thing they want to do is put more time in to make more money. Instead, they could be earning passive income. By investing some time into learning these proven methods of passive income generation. With passive income, you could stop working so many hours and still make more money than you were before.

If you still need more income ideas, we have a list of extra income ideas that are mainly side hustles, gigs, or second jobs. Check it out and see if there are more money-making ideas you can add to your income portfolio.

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Terry Sprouse
13 years ago

Good article.

I have used the rental house route to make passive income, and I can testify that the additional income stream is a great safety cushion in tough economic times.

13 years ago

“After your mortgage on the property is paid, anything left over is considered passive income.”

Once the mortgage is paid, and the insurance, and repairs, and collecting the rent when not on time, and finding tenants, and…

Renting house is NOT passive income. I have never known a single landlord that did not spend at least a few hours each month on the property they were renting.

Now if you pay a management company to handle the day-to-day issues and keep what is left, THAT would be passive income.

4 years ago

We should try out some of the low effort passive income ideas and one or two of the higher effort ones and see which work best for you. The best way to sell an existing product is to create more excellent products. Once you master the business model, you can generate a good income.

13 years ago

Seems like you would need to have a lot of money to buy property to rent out…

James Fowlkes
13 years ago

Be very careful of the residual affiliate marketing. There are sooo many scams out there with MLM and nonsense. Might help to check any potential affiliate company with the Better Business Bureau in your area. It can also help to Google “name of company”+ the word scam. You might be surprised by what you find.

Financial Samurai
13 years ago

There’s only one real source of passive income, and that’s interest income.

13 years ago

Another great way to earn passive income is from investing in tax lien/deed certificates. While some money is required upfront you will earn a decent amount from the interest on these tax liens.

10 years ago

Excellent ideas. Content writing is an excellent way and one which I’ve done myself. I love creating new content and posting it to my own website which I promote heavily. I’ve also written on Triond but it’s not such a good source of passive income as your own blog or website.

10 years ago

Writing books is NOT passive income, and advances have been flat since the 1970s. Authors today joke that their books have the shelf life of a ripe banana–and it’s true. Recommending that people write books to make money is like recommending that they act to make money since Tom Cruise gets a portion of profits of the movies he’s in and gets money for decades after he’s in a movie. Only it might be quite a bit easier to make a living as an actor than as an author–and they’re about the same level of passivity. Book royalties are not… Read more »

8 years ago

If I invest in overseas banks by purchasing CD’s is this money earned Pasive or Earned ?

4 years ago

Great post-Pinyo. Although, I believe most of the people have this wrong concept about passive income that it’s a one-time effort. But it’s not. Just like all other things, this one also requires ongoing efforts to get things done. What do you think?

4 years ago

Viewing reduced expenses as reverse passive income is an interesting concept, especially after factoring taxes. The current low mortgage rate environment definitely helps.

21 Best Passive Income Ideas for 2020

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 10 min
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