This article was inspired by a post from FIFighter where he discussed the passivity of each income method and explored how much time needs to be dedicated per week. In this post, I build on that idea with more sources of passive income covered, and explore other details such as the relative risk and reward of each system. Note that these are the risk and reward numbers as per my personal opinion and may differ for each individual. I employ a scale of 0-10 for the risk-reward system, where 0 indicates no risk or no reward and 10 indicates max risk and max reward.
Keep in mind that the following discussion pertains only to passivity of income for each method. By that measure, Income Methods such as Internships & Volunteering and Active Jobs have no associated risk and reward when it comes to passive income and are thusly marked NA.
|Income Method||Passivity Index||Risk||Reward|
-1. Internships & Volunteering
This has a negative index on the scale of passivity for obvious reasons. Working as an intern or volunteering means that you not only not generating passive income, but are also not compensated for your time and effort. However, this does not mean that these are necessarily bad. Internships and volunteering can provide invaluable experience that can benefit you in future career or be beneficial in intangible ways.
Royalties-1 is anything that requires immense amount of work upfront. Examples include a book or a patent. If we consider the case of a book, work here involves not only writing the book, but you have to work on negotiating a book deal with the publishers, work with designers, market it with book tours etc. It is for this reason that the passivity index is low on this income method. The risks are fairly high as your book has to compete with a lot of other material out there and can get lost in the noise. But the potential rewards are great. Many writers have been able to retire by simply relying on royalties collected from a best seller book.
Passivity Index: 1
2. Real Estate-1
Real Estate-1 includes buying real estate and becoming a landlord to rent and manage the property by yourself. This involves a bit of work as you have to screen the tenants, collect the cheques (the easy part :), act quickly if tenants are missing deadlines for rent cheques, address complaints about the property etc. The risk associated involves ending up with problem houses, having problem tenants, potential of missed income if vacant; but the rewards are great as it provides you with a monthly income and if done right, will result in positive cash flow.
Passivity Index: 2
Royalties-2 includes earnings where publishing does not include as much of work upfront. Keep in mind that publishing still requires work, but what I refer to here is where you self-publish or e-publish such as online articles, e-books or blogging. The entry point and the hurdles at the beginning to get started are slightly lower here, but still requires marketing (SEO) and other efforts earlier discussed. In my case, blogging on this site brings me advertising revenue and writing content for third party websites provides me with passive income as well.
Passivity Index: 3
This income method involves actively trading on the financial markets, which could be trading stocks, bonds, options, futures etc. Traders buying and selling constantly requires work as time and effort has to be poured into understanding the trade. While not a completely passive method, the risks are extremely high as it requires the trader to time the market, an extremely difficult task, but the rewards are just as great if you are on the right side of the trade.
Passivity Index: 4
5. Active Investing
Active investing involves investing in companies that you want to own as a business. This usually involves investing in the company stock and holding it for the long run, with income coming through profit sharing via dividends and distributions. Picking the right companies that can perform well year-in and year-out is the risk involved. Holdings stocks for income can be very rewarding as the dividends start rolling in. As a dividend growth investor, this is one of my primary sources of passive income.
Passivity Index: 5
6. P2P Lending
P2P lending involves lending money to another person for a higher than market interest rate, which can be rewarding if the borrower pays back. However, the risk is higher as you have to trust that the person would pay the loan back, and on time.
Passivity Index: 6
7. Real Estate-2
Real Estate-2 is similar to Real Estate-1 except that a property manager takes care of all the hassles for a small fee. The property manager acts as a middle-man dealing with the tenant, providing the owner/investor with more free time making this option more passive. The risk stays the same between the two options, but the reward diminishes a bit due to added costs.
Passivity Index: 7
8. GICs and Bond Investing
Investing in GICs and bonds can be quite passive and have a passivity index of 8. However, investors have to keep an eye out for macro economic measures and where the interest rates are going. Since the Fed and/or central banks around the world do not change interest rates on a monthly or quarterly basis (even though they meet frequently), the investment horizons are generally in years and decades. The risks are low as it is guaranteed income for the period, but there are risks involved nonetheless. If the interest rates rise, the face value of the bonds can fall. Similarly, GICs locked-in for years can erode your wealth if there is rampant inflation.
Passivity Index: 8
9. Passive Investing
Passive investing is where you simply invest in the financial markets using a fund on a periodic basis. Investors using the passive investing method seldom pay attention to what is happening on a day to day basis in the market and prefer buying broad funds that invest in indexes. This is one of the most common methods of investing, be it for beginners or seasoned investors who do not have the time to follow the markets and monitor closely. The risks are mitigated when using broad index funds and the rewards can be great as long as the expenses are kept in check.
Passivity Index: 9
Savings accounts provide the most passivity, but also have the least reward. Over a short period of time, the interest generated by savings accounts can be rewarding, but over time the cash loses value as inflation erodes the buying power. The interest paid by savings accounts seldom keep up with inflation. However, there is no risk associated with savings accounts as they are usually insured by a federal agency.
Passivity Index: 10