Readers of the blog will be familiar with the term passive income. And to once and for all give my point of view on what is actual passive income as well as my own passive revenue streams.
What is Passive Income?
The notion of having your money work for you, to have it generate additional income while you sleep is a wonderful one.
Right off the bat, let me dispel the notion that passive income is only for the wealthier individual. In fact, passive income is for anyone and everyone. Regardless of the amount, passive income is passive income. RM10 a month is a passive income if your assets are generating it for you. Everyone starts small. In fact, I think my first dividend received was in the region of RM50 for the first year. That’s like RM4 per month. Work on it continuously and trust me, it’ll grow.
More popular forms of passive income in Malaysia include rentals from real estate, interest from bank deposits and P2P lending, and dividends from stocks and businesses.
The term Passive Income has been thrown around and mentioned a lot recently as Malaysians become more financially literate. In general, passive income is defined as income earned with little or no effort. So not all ”passive income” is truly passive.
For example, almost everyone would list their rental income as passive. I beg to differ. In my experience, taking care of your rental property takes time and effort. You may have a real estate agent working with you at the start but most of the time, you’ll be doing the work yourself. Personally, I put up ads on my own as I feel my agent’s ads were too generic. I even attend the viewings to make sure the said agent is doing his/her job right.
Now all that is just to get your unit rented, what happens when a pipe bursts or your air conditioners malfunctions. Your agent isn’t going to help you with it as there’s nothing in it for them. So no, I’ll not list my rent collection as a passive income.
However, your rental income will be classified as passive once you hire a proper property manager where he/she is hired on a full time basis to take care of your real estate portfolio. Of course, you’ll have to have a large mix of properties before that is viable.
My Passive Income
I myself like to only call a source of income passive when it truly requires zero to minimal effort on my part.
This is why, out of all my income streams, I only actually consider my dividends from stocks and interest earned from P2P lending passive income.
A good benchmark to know if your passive income returns are up to par would be your fixed deposits with banks. Historically, it has been at the 3% mark. Recently, a 2% return is the norm. So if you’ve already got investments generating passive returns for you, check if it’s higher than your FD rates. I’d even go so far to say that FDs are like the kings of passive income. Easiest to obtain, all you need is capital.
My income right now comes from the following:
- Stakes in businesses
Earned income from working a job is the total opposite of passive income. My businesses, although can run by themselves, I still consider them not to be truly passive because they still require constant monitoring and checking in with.
As mentioned earlier, rental income from my properties does not fall under the passive category for me. My properties require attention from time to time in the form of rent collection, having to look for tenants, fixing stuff etc. So, not passive. For me at least. Until I hire a property manager.
Dividends from my stocks I totally consider passive because the valuation of a company is done once before I purchase the stock. Thereafter, I only check in with the same company either quarterly, half-yearly or sometimes even once a year.
Lastly, my income in the form of interests comes mostly from fixed deposits and lending money via P2P lending platforms. FDs are a no-brainer, you can even make placements online nowadays. As for my P2P lending, although small in comparison to my other income, this one is passive for me as well. I just read the prospectus and information on the company/business I’m lending money to, and then sit back and receive my money in the form of capital plus interests.
My main source of passive income comes from dividends generated by my Freedom Fund. To achieve financial independence, I’ve calculated that I’d need roughly RM3,000 a month in passive income.
Last year’s dividends came up to RM16,322.27. I’m almost halfway to my goal of RM36,000 in dividends per annum. My dividends so far for the year 2020 can be viewed hERE.
How to Generate Passive Income
Earning any form of income boils down to two factors – the effort and time and/or the amount of capital you put in. In essence, either you invest and put up your time or you put up your money.
So if you’re young, you’re able and you’ve got time to spare, you will want to consider putting in your time and effort towards building a steady stream of passive income. A good example of this would be someone in their 20s working their ass off in a business with the eventual goal of automating it and generating returns without their involvement.
Or, that same 20-year-old person could work at their career, save their salary, and then invest that money to then eventually earn passive returns. Which means – time and effort first, and then putting up the capital after.
Unless you’re fortunate to be inheriting wealth, you’ll always have to put something up for returns. Your effort, your time, your money.
Getting to where I’m at hasn’t been an easy ride. My portfolio is mainly built on frugality. In my experience, passive income does not come easy. It’ll take a huge initial investment on your part. In the case of my dividend income from stocks, to earn that RM16K per annum, I had to have about RM400K in capital which comes up to about a 4% return for me.
Why is Passive Income Important
If like me, you’re on a quest for financial independence, passive income will cover your expenses. Financial freedom and security has always been my ultimate goal.
When I invest, I invest to first increase my passive income. And when I’ve eventually reached my passive income goal, I’ll focus on growth. Because that is when I’m set and I can afford to take bigger risks with my investments. Also, I’d rather not liquidate and sell my stocks for income.
With a steady, reliable source of passive income generating for you every month, trust me, you’ll be in a very happy place. Investment decisions can be so much more logical and less emotional. You worry less about losing the shirt off your back if your investments don’t work out. Of course, being a rational investor you’ll still exercise caution, you just won’t be hindered by thoughts of bankruptcy and worst-case scenarios.
Passive Income Ideas
If you’re like most readers of the blog, you probably are in your 20s or 30s, and you’re working for a salary. You might want to first consider putting in FDs, and then maybe stocks for dividends.
Another way to go is properties, it may not be passive for now. But once you’ve built up a substantial real estate portfolio where hiring a property manager is viable, it most definitely will be passive then.
One more potentially lucrative endeavor are businesses. You may have a hobby right now which can be turned into a side hustle and eventually into a full-fledged business. Or if you’ve got the dough, look into franchises that do not require your full attention.
I’m always trying to find other ways to generate passive income for myself. Some good ones come to mind like royalties from book publishing, music, or any kind of intellectual property.
The blog itself is earning a little from ad revenue and affiliate marketing. This however isn’t passive YET. I don’t want to bombard you guys with too many ads on the site. And affiliate marketing only happens when I actually like and/or use the products. Right now I’m just really enjoying writing and having a community built on investing and FI/RE.
Now, as you can probably tell, not everything may qualify as passive at first because it requires a tremendous amount of effort. But at the end of the day, say 10 years down the road when you’re able to be hands-off and collect your cash, it’s most definitely passive.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Passive income for me is tied closely to my goal of financial independence and freedom. And I’ve decided on dividends to be my main stream of income. You may have other ideas for passive income and your goals might differ. At the end of the day, we can all agree that passive income is a good supplement to your portfolio whatever your financial goals might be.
Ever since I graduated and started my first job, I’ve worked towards a goal – having a stock portfolio whose dividends I can live off for the rest of my life. So, if you haven’t already, set yourself a target and work towards it. Don’t just work that 9 to 5 job aimlessly. Your goal could be like mine, financial independence. Or maybe you truly find happiness in living a lavish life. There isn’t anything wrong with either one. A goal is a goal, as long as you have one and you’re happy, by all means!
For the next article of the FI/RE and Savings Series, check out article 004 – Emergency Funds & Fixed Deposit Laddering.