How to Build Passive Income

Dan Nicholson

If the idea of having long-term financial security and independence appeals to you, building passive income streams is an essential strategy to add to your financial arsenal. Passive income, by definition, requires minimal ongoing effort to maintain, offering an ideal complement to your day job. By leveraging your resources wisely, you can create a safety net that grows over time, cushioning you against economic uncertainties and enabling you to build wealth for the future. 

Generate Income Through Interest and Dividends

The investment world offers myriad opportunities for generating passive income through interest and dividends. The primary benefit of these investment vehicles is the potential for compound growth, enabling your wealth to exponentially increase over time. 

  • Stocks and ETFs stand out for their potential to deliver significant returns through dividends and capital appreciation. The key to success in stock investing lies in a well-researched, diversified portfolio that can weather market fluctuations.
  • Certificates of Deposit (CDs) are time-bound deposit accounts offered by banks with a fixed interest rate higher than regular savings accounts. They are a safer investment but offer lower returns compared to stocks and ETFs.
  • Bond ladders, a portfolio of bonds with varying maturity dates, provide regular interest payments and help manage interest rate risk.
  • Money market funds, though offering lower returns, are considered safer investments and provide more liquidity with interest income.

It is important to remember that any investment runs the risk of market volatility, which can affect the value of investments. John H. Graves, accredited investment fiduciary, advises against stocks if you don’t have time to do thorough research. He noted in an article for Bankrate, “ETFs are an ideal choice for novices because they are easy to understand, highly liquid, inexpensive, and have far better potential returns because of far lower costs than mutual funds.” A strategic, diversified investment plan is crucial for mitigating risks and ensuring steady growth in passive income.

Earn Income Through Real Estate

Real estate investing is another powerful avenue for creating passive income, offering several paths to profitability:

  • Buying and renting out properties is a classic strategy, providing regular rental income and potential property value appreciation. The success of this approach depends on location, property management, and the ability to attract and retain tenants.
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) allow investors to put money into a diversified portfolio of real estate assets. “REITs offer a solution that provides exposure to real estate in your investment portfolio without the physical work often associated with investing in real estate,” as noted by Sarah Sharkey for Rocket Mortgage
  • Holiday rentals, such as those offered on platforms like Airbnb, have become increasingly popular. They can offer higher returns than traditional rentals but require more active management and are subject to market demand fluctuations.

Real estate investing can generate substantial passive income, but it also carries risks, including market downturns, high upfront costs, and the complexities of managing properties or renovations. Adequate research, investment strategy, and sometimes professional advice are necessary to navigate these challenges successfully.

Invest in Businesses or Private Equity

Investing in businesses or private equity presents an opportunity to be part of potentially high-growth ventures:

  • Funding businesses, especially startups, offers the thrill of being part of a new venture's journey, with the possibility of significant returns on investment. However, it's important to conduct thorough due diligence, as the risk of business failure is high.
  • Joining a private equity firm involves investing in companies through a managed fund, aiming for high returns through strategic improvements and eventual sale or public offering of the businesses.
  • Peer-to-peer lending platforms provide an alternative to traditional banking by allowing individuals to lend money directly to others or businesses, earning income through interest payments. Kevin Voigt and Andy Rosen of Nerdwallet note that these platforms are “riskier than putting cash in a high-yield savings account or money market fund, but also potentially can earn more interest — as much as 5% or more.”

These investment avenues require an understanding of market trends, business evaluation, and a readiness to assume higher risks in exchange for the potential of substantial returns.

Create Content or Intellectual Property

The digital era has unlocked unprecedented opportunities for creators to generate passive income through their intellectual property. Creating content is a bit like investing in your own future: you put in the work now, but reap the rewards over time. As financial coach Todd Tresidder explained to Bankrate, “Many people think that passive income is about getting something for nothing… but in the end, it still involves work. You just give the work upfront.”

  • Selling photos, building apps, and creating online courses leverage your skills and creativity to produce content once and sell it repeatedly.
  • Writing books or blogs and creating videos can attract a following, generating income through sales, advertising, and sponsorships.

While these methods offer the potential for significant income, the challenge lies in creating content that stands out in a saturated market. Success requires a combination of quality, originality, and strategic marketing to attract and retain an audience.


Building passive income is an empowering journey toward financial independence, offering the freedom to enjoy life's pleasures while your investments work for you. While each method comes with its own set of risks and rewards, the key to success lies in diversification, careful planning, and continuous learning. By investing time and resources wisely, you can create a robust passive income stream that secures your financial future and enables a life of abundance and choice. Embrace the opportunities and challenges ahead, and watch as your passive income streams flourish, bringing you closer to your financial goals.




Rocket Mortgage


Dan Nicholson is the author of “Rigging the Game: How to Achieve Financial Certainty, Navigate Risk and Make Money on Your Own Terms,” deemed a best-seller by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to founding the award-winning accounting and financial consulting firm Nth Degree CPAs, Dan has created and run multiple small businesses, including Certainty U and the Certified Certainty Advisor program.

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