When you’re trying to pay off debt, save for retirement, or reach any other financial goal, having an additional income stream can go a long way. Not only that, but extra income can help pad your budget during times of high inflation or help keep you on stable ground if you lose your primary source of income.
But bringing in additional income is often easier said than done, especially if you already feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
That’s where passive income comes in. While it may require some time or money to get started, passive income then allows you to bring in an additional income stream without trading your time for money. Keep reading to learn more about what passive income works, passive income ideas, and how to minimize taxes on your passive income.
What is Passive Income?
There are two different ways we can define passive income. First, passive income describes income you earn with little to no ongoing effort. Of course, that definition makes it sound easier than it really is. After all, if there were a way to make money with no effort, wouldn’t everyone do it?
Generally speaking, you’ll need one of two things to start earning passive income: time or money. Sure, passive income can eventually provide you with extra money with little to no added work.
But before you get to that point, you’ll have to make a time or money investment to get it started. The good news is once you make that investment, passive income can start rolling in without trading your time for money.
The other definition of passive income comes from the IRS and is defined as either rental activities or trade or business activities in which you don’t materially participate throughout the year. This definition is important because income from passive activities has a special tax treatment.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be using the first definition of passive income, which is income you can earn with little to no ongoing effort.
Ways to Maximize your Investments
One of the best ways to create passive income is to maximize your investments. Of course, this passive income strategy requires an upfront financial investment. It’s generally best suited for those who have excess cash today and want to use it to create passive income for the future.
Here are a few ways you can use your investments to create passive income:
Dividend Stocks and Funds
Dividends are payments that companies make to their investors as a way of passing along their profits. Dividends are usually paid on a quarterly basis (though they can also be paid monthly or annually). They’re usually issued on a per-share basis, meaning each shareholder will receive a certain dollar amount for each share they own.
Companies don’t have to issue dividends, but many do as a way of rewarding and enticing investors. You can create passive income from dividends by investing directly in dividend stocks or by investing in dividend mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Bonds and Bond Funds
A bond is a debt security that a company or government entity issues as a way to raise capital. An investor lends the issuer money by purchasing the bond. In return, the bond issuer makes interest payments to the investors throughout the life of the bond. When the bond reaches maturity, the issuer will return the investor’s principal investment.
Bonds pay interest on a set schedule, usually twice per year. The amount you can earn is based on the interest rate of the bond. Like dividend stocks, you can make passive income from bonds by directly purchasing bonds or by investing in bond mutual funds and ETFs.
Real estate has the potential to provide passive income in a couple of different ways:
- Rental properties: You can buy a rental property and earn passive income through the rental income the property brings in. Keep in mind that managing a property can be a lot of work, so this income is only likely to be truly passive if you hire someone to manage the property for you.
- Real estate investment trusts (REITs): REITs are publicly-traded companies that own and manage real estate. By investing in REITs, you’re buying a small piece of ownership of the property that the company owns and, in return, will get a small piece of the profits.
- Real estate crowdfunding: Similar to investing in REITs, real estate crowdfunding allows you to pool your money with other people to invest in real estate. There’s generally a company that directly owns and manages the real estate and passes along profits to the investors.
CDs, HYSAs, High-Yield Cash Accounts
Certificates of deposit (CDs), high-yield cash accounts, and high-yield savings accounts (HYSAs) are two banking products that allow you to earn a small amount of interest from your money. They both work similarly, where you deposit your money in the account and earn a set amount of interest.
HYSAs work like any other savings account, where you can deposit and withdraw money at any time. CDs usually require that you lock up your money during the CD’s term and can withdraw it when the CD reaches maturity.
High-yield savings and cash accounts can both earn competitive interest rates. But there are a few significant differences:
- A savings account often limits your transactions to six per month, whereas a cash account may allow for more.
- Some cash accounts also allow for check writing, while savings accounts do not.
While CDs and HYSAs generally have lower returns than other investment opportunities, they also have a considerably lower risk because they are FDIC-insured. In other words, there’s no chance of losing your money.
Cryptocurrency staking is similar to putting cash in a HYSA or CD. You agree to lock up your cryptocurrency for a period of time. Staked coins are used to help maintain the blockchain and ensure its security. In return, you’ll earn a percentage return on your staked crypto.
Cryptocurrency staking isn’t available for all coins, nor do all platforms allow staking. If you own cryptocurrency, do some research to find out if you’re able to stake.
Other Passive Income Ideas for Beginners
Investing is one of the best ways to earn passive income because it doesn’t require any of your time. However, it does require an upfront financial investment, which not everyone can make. Luckily, there are other forms of passive income that require a bit of upfront effort but then allow you to earn passive income from your work.
Here are a few ideas:
- Create and sell an online course or e-book
- Become an affiliate for products and make money with affiliate marketing
- Sell your art or photography online
- Rent out your car or a room in your home
- Build a website and install ads
- Create and sell an app
- Set up a dropshipping business
- Create a blog or YouTube channel
When trying to decide the best way to earn passive income, start by thinking of what you enjoy doing. If you already create art or take photos as a hobby, it would be easy to start selling your work online. Meanwhile, if you love writing, creating a blog and making money with affiliate marketing or advertising might be a better option.
Remember that each of these types of passive income will require upfront work on your part. The amount of work required depends on the passive income stream you choose.
There’s not necessarily one source of passive income that’s best for everyone. However, it’s worth considering what will earn you the most money for the least amount of work (and will continue to make you money on an ongoing basis).
Minimize Taxes on Passive income
Just like the income at your full-time job, the money you make from passive income sources will be subject to taxes. And if you don’t plan ahead, you could end up with a large and unexpected tax bill at the end of the year (or in trouble with the IRS if you fail to report all your income and pay all your taxes).
One of the simplest ways to minimize your tax burden is by writing off your business expenses. Generally speaking, you can write off any expenses that are both ordinary and necessary for your line of business. For example, if you set up a website, the money you pay for your domain name and website design would be ordinary and necessary for your business.
Deductible business expenses directly reduce your taxable income. For example, if you earn $1,000 and have $250 of deductible expenses, you have a taxable income of $750.
Another way to minimize the taxes on your passive income is to invest the money in a tax-advantaged investment account. When you earn passive income from a side hustle, you’re able to set up a retirement account for self-employed individuals, including a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k). Even if you choose not to set up one of these accounts, you can invest the money in a traditional IRA.
Each dollar you contribute to one of these tax-advantaged accounts reduces your taxable income and, therefore, reduces the amount of taxes you’ll pay for the year.
Next Steps for You
Passive income can go a long way in helping you reach your financial goals. It’s also important to have the right tools by your side. Personal Capital’s free financial dashboard has all the tools you need to help you manage your finances, including budgeting and cash flow tools, a savings planner, an investment checkup tool, and more. Sign up for free today.
Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation and is compensated as a freelance writer.
*The Personal Capital Cash Annual Percentage Yield (APY) is as of August 2022. The calculation for APY is rounded to the nearest basis point. Both the interest rate and APY are variable and subject to change at our discretion at any time without notice.
The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. Compensation not to exceed $500. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.