I rent out two single family homes. You need to learn about how to analyze your return on investment, get the places rented, and deal with repairs, problem tenants, among other things. If you don’t do your research, you could easily lose money. I have to spend a few days a year managing things, checking up on the properties, finding new tenants, but it is effectively passive. I buy in areas near big universities with stable real estate markets so there is always a fresh crop of new people moving into the neighborhood.
It’s a (mostly) short term, higher risk, higher reward place to invest cash that has a low correlation with the stock market, but is far more passive than buying and managing properties, has more opportunity for diversification than private placements (minimums of 5-10K, rather than 100K), and most of the equity offerings (and all of the debt offerings) provide monthly or quarterly incomes. Unlike a REIT, you can choose exactly which projects you wish to invest in.
Opportunity cost is the basic concept at the heart of residual income. Opportunity cost refers to what you are giving up to use an asset for a particular project or investment. Let's say you start with $100,000 cash in your stock portfolio and grew that money to $104,000 by spending only a few hours per month trading stocks. Now $4,000 in profit may look just fine when you consider that you only worked, say, 20 hours for it in total. However, once you consider your opportunity cost, your little hobby will not look nearly as profitable. If banks are paying six percent for risk-free certificates of deposit, your $100,000 would have grown to $106,000 simply by depositing it in a bank. Your opportunity cost is $6,000
But that’s more like a fairytale. You’ll have to put in some effort to continue receiving residual income on the business you started. Talking to your managers and representatives will help them be more productive and run your business better. Marketing your online sales through social media and your network will help earn you more money. But you just won’t have to work at it as your full time job. Think of it as a part time job that can potentially bring in full time pay.
When I started building my architecture-related business in 2008, I made my first dollar through advertising. I’d spent a lot of time and money building the site and getting traffic. Then one day I threw an ad on the site one day, and I made $1.18. Sure, I could find that much under my couch cushions—but that’s not the point! The point is that I was able to build something online, put an ad up, and make money without having to do anything. I learned it was possible, and it motivated me to move forward.