Passive Takes Work

 
hammockIf you know anything about me you know that the title of this post has nothing to do with being lazy or taking it easy.

Instead this post is about passive income but, unlike most articles, books, and blog posts about passive income I’m going to tell and show you that passive income is difficult, it takes work. There are a lot of financial bloggers who promote real estate as a panacea for wealth creation but I’ll tell you they’re wrong. At the same time I’ll say that real estate has been a great success for me. That sounds schizophrenic but the reality is that for real estate to generate income it takes work and smart decisions, there is no easy way and while some people will have great success with real estate others will struggle or lose everything.

As promised this post is a followup to some of the numbers in my post titled Manage Your Money Don’t Let it Manage You. Specifically I said that, in 2013, dividends and interest accounted for 14.75% of my gross income. That’s a high number, imagine making an extra 14.75% of what you make right now – it would be nice, right? Well this does vary year by year and here how’s its gone for me: 2007 – 12.59%, 2008 – 7.08%, 2009 – 3.45%, 2010 – 5.57%, 2011 – 10.15%, 2012 – 9.68%.

Passive income indeed but it is highly variable and you can see that the recession years had very low numbers that reached a low in 2009 and have been (mostly) growing since. I expect 2014 to be lower than 2013 because I don’t expect the stock market to do as well (Update: I was wrong. 2014 saw dividends and interest at 18.67%). Let’s also not forget that you may owe taxes on those dividends and if you reinvest those dividends (which you should) you’ll have to come up with that money yourself. I say may owe taxes on the dividends because it’s only true if the stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or ETFs that generate the dividends are in taxable accounts. Most of our dividends come from our retirement accounts, 401k and IRA.

Over the years I’ve read a lot of self help books especially with a financial bent but most weren’t very helpful which is why I wrote my own. One book, however, stuck with me. It’s called Your Money or Your Life and puts forth the concept of passive income through dividends and interest eventually replacing your salary allowing you to retire. But it takes a while and requires aggressive savings. I liked the idea so much that it is a major part of my retirement plan but as you can see, even with my aggressive savings, I’ve got a long way to go.

Now to real estate. In the same post I referenced above I pointed out that my rental properties represent 6.11% of my income but they also account for 9.09% of my expenses. In other words I’m losing money on the real estate. Not to mention the time I devote to overseeing and renovating those properties. Anyone who has rental real estate knows the income is anything but passive, it takes a lot of work. But there are several things going for me: first, I get to use those properties while I’m there to oversee and renovate them (they’re vacation rental properties and so are a literal pleasure to visit), second  I will be able to deduct the money spent on renovations, repairs, and improvements when I sell the property (income limits called passive income rules prevent me from doing so now), and third, and maybe most important is that the properties have increased in value over the years and I’ll be able to sell them for more than I paid. Like any investment these are long term commitments.

When people start talking about passive income like it’s easy, come back here and read this for a little balance.

Do you have experience (good or bad) with passive income? Add your comments below!

 


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