Having a steady stream of passive income sounds like a dream, because it effectively means you get to earn money for doing nothing.
Unfortunately, many people who claim to be able to generate passive income aren’t exactly being as passive about it as they let on.
For instance, many webmasters and bloggers claim to earn passive income through their sites but fail to mention that they spend tens of hours each week writing blog posts and analysing site traffic. Stock or forex day traders might make it sound as if they’re making money out of nothing, until you realise they spend hours in front of the computer each day with their hearts in their mouths.
If you have a day job and are unwilling to commit too much time and effort into making passive income, here are some ideas that require minimal effort.
1. Rent out a room
If you’ve got enough money to buy multiple properties, you could probably just become a landlord by trade and stop working altogether, living off your rental income.
On the other hand, even if you’re not exactly Mr Moneybags, you might still have the opportunity to rent out a room or 2 in your existing home. A friend of mine even volunteered to sleep in the living room so he could rent out his bedroom for the spare cash.
If dealing with another stranger in your home is an absolute no-go, there are also people renting out their spare rooms as storage space on Carousell. This practice isn’t exactly common, but it’s not against the HDB rules either.
Alternatively, if you have the spare cash, you might consider purchasing commercial property as an “investment property”, since these are cheaper than residential property (i.e. multi-million condos).
While it does take a bit of effort to view potential properties and deal with tenants, with the help of an agent your effort can be kept minimal. And best of all, you don’t have to live with anyone else.
2. Buy dividend stocks
Making money off the stock market isn’t something that yields fruit immediately, and prudent investors often find themselves holding on to stocks for years.
If you do happen to enter the stock market at a time when the price is right, purchasing dividend-yielding stocks can be a good way to obtain a bit of passive income until you finally sell them off. Typically, the highest dividends tend to come from telco, banks and property developers.
You will typically receive your dividends on a quarterly or annual basis, and this money can just be credited directly into your bank account. At the same time, monitor the stock prices in case you want to sell your shares at a profit.
REITs (real estate investment trusts) are a subset of stocks that have been very popular recently, being some of the highest-yielding stocks on the market.
For example, we know that CapitaLand is rolling in dough from charging its tenants exorbitant rental fees, so investors who buy shares in CapitaLand Mall Trust can benefit from some of those juicy profits.
3. Buy high-quality bonds
Bonds are often discussed side-by-side with stocks as an investment vehicle, but the mechanics are different. Whereas buying shares means exchanging your capital for a small stake in the company, buying a bond is effectively lending your capital to the company or institution.
Buying bonds is slightly more reassuring than buying shares, because the borrower agrees to pay you back a fixed amount in interest — known as the “coupon rate”.
Most of us would have heard of the Singapore Savings Bonds, which let you loan money to the most credible of all institutions — the Singapore government! Other high-profile ones are the Temasek Holdings bond and the Temasek-linked Astrea V bonds.
The good thing about these open-to-public bonds is that the borrowers are credible, so the risk of them defaulting is small (or nil). On the downside, the returns can be low compared to that of high-dividend stocks.
4. Earn interest from banks
The banking interest rate in Singapore is notoriously low, especially if you stick with the default POSB / UOB savings account that yields a negligible amount of interest each year.
However, if you do your research, you will find that there are a number of high interest bank accounts that give you interest rates of up to 2% (or even more). With a 2% interest rate, you would be getting $1,000 a year for a $50,000 deposit. Not too shabby.
Of course, which one you ultimately pick depends a great deal on your income and your banking habits. Most of these banks impose some sort of requirements in order for you to earn the high interest, so the ideal one would fit your lifestyle perfectly — so all you need to do is open the savings account, then sit back and collect your interest payments.
If you have to jump through hoops to get that bonus interest, then it’s no longer passive income, is it?
Alternatively, there’s always fixed deposits, which are not as troublesome and do offer up to 2% risk-free annual interest as well. You do need a lump sum of cash, typically at least $10,000.
5. Earn credit card cashback / rewards
This probably isn’t one of things that comes to your mind when you think of “passive income”, but used the right way, and we mean the right way, credit cards can actually provide you with a source of kickbacks and benefits.
Cashback, rewards points and air miles that banks give you for using their credit cards can help supplement your passive income stream, especially credit cards that can give you as much as 5% cashback on your spending.
The beauty of credit card cashback and rewards is that you don’t even have to be spending on your own stuff to qualify. Pick up the tab at a restaurant meal for a big group and then have everyone else pay you in cash, and you get cash back on the entire sum.
The same goes for ordering stuff online together with a large group of people. And when it comes to big ticket items like wedding banquet reservations or air tickets, you can get significant amount of money back.
Of course, if you decide to go overboard and blow your credit limit on yourself, then this section doesn’t apply to you.
6. Affiliate marketing
Okay, this may not be truly passive for some of us, but if you are an influencer in your group of passionate tiger moms, love to try out and review beauty products, or are obsessed with your favourite Dyson product, you may want to try out affiliate marketing.
This is done by pasting a link to the e-commerce listing of the item you’re raving about on Dayre or HardwareZone. When a reader buys it through your link, you get paid a small cut of the sale. You can find out more about Qoo10’s and Lazada’s affiliate programmes here.
If you’re already doing this on a regular basis, then it definitely does not require extra effort on your part, but otherwise it’s probably too much trouble than it’s worth.
Beware, too, of the promises that e-commerce sites make for their affiliate marketers. The income you get from this form of advertising — if any! — is unpredictable, to say the least. So don’t quit your day job just yet.
7. Sell your intellectual property
You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to earn royalties off your creative work.
If you happen to be a creative whiz and love making music, taking photos, illustrating things or putting together videos, you may want to consider putting up some of your work on stock photo/music/footage sites. You will receive a small fee every time someone uses your work.
As someone working in the digital content industry, I must say that I really value quality stock photos, music and video, especially stuff that’s appropriate to Singapore (and Asia in general), because most databases are heavily Western-skewed.
So if you already have a few terrabytes of travel and regular photos, it can’t hurt to try selling them to Shutterstock. The income is inconsistent, but since you’ve already done the work, any money that comes in will truly be passive.
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