Confession: Active Income Is Much More Enjoyable Than Passive Income

Sleeping Baby TigerMaking money while not doing anything is the ideal scenario, or so I thought until recently. For years I’ve been diligently saving and investing so I could never be told what to do for money again. 5am conference call with the East Coast? No thanks! Fly to Chicago in the middle of winter to see clients? Have fun! Come in before sunrise and leave after sunset? Yeah, you do that.

One of the most important tips I’ve shared about building sustainable passive income is treating the whole process like a game with multiple levels. Because interest rates have been coming down for the past 30+ years, generating low risk passive income is becoming that much harder every year. Earning $28,000 a year in dividends on a $1 million dollar portfolio is not exactly living it up! The investing world is counting much more on capital appreciation instead.

The problem with building passive income my way is that you start becoming completely oblivious to the income production because you aren’t utilizing the money. You have to follow the rules remember? I haven’t touched any principal or interest/dividend income since I started the passive income journey in 1999. I’ve become an over saver during retirement, which is not bringing me joy any longer.

The problem with over savers is that there’s this irrational fear that Doom is right around the corner. What if Google’s latest search algorithm changes cuts this site’s traffic in half? Less traffic means less income. What if eventual Woman Of The Year, Janet Yellen recants on her promise to keep interest rates low forever? We’re all depending on the bull run in real estate and stocks to continue. The “what ifs” never stop, so we continue to save for a rainy day that never comes.

WHY ACTIVE INCOME FEELS SO MUCH BETTER THAN PASSIVE INCOME

I’d like to give you a specific example of how active income feels better than passive income. Just the other day I scored a small ad deal for $400. After about eight back and forth e-mail negotiations over a couple days I locked it down and was thrilled. I decided to take a friend out for a steak dinner to celebrate to the tune of $140, or 35% of what I made from the deal.

During this time period I got a monthly electronic rental payment of $3,800 from a tenant like clockwork. You’d think that receiving a sum almost 10X the amount of the ad deal while doing nothing would provide a little more happiness, but I didn’t feel a single thing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Mei you. I used the $3,800 to pay my rental mortgage and HOA and still had $2,100 left over to spend on whatever. I saved it of course.

Another thing happened during the time I negotiated an ad deal. One of my long time holdings in my IRA portfolio reported decent results and the stock went up $6,000 the next day. I was excited for about an hour and then nothing afterwards. Of course the stock should trade higher because it was undervalued, I thought to myself. Who was the dummy actually selling?!

It’s strange to feel so much more joy over the $400 ad deal than the $10,000 in passive income. Let’s discuss why.

1) We want to know our actions make a difference.

After earning a certain amount of sustainable income to survive, making more doesn’t feel that good if you haven’t done anything to deserve it. I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve married into very wealthy families or have trust funds, and there’s always this very evident insecurity about them that they need to prove themselves worthy. It’s much better to build something from the ground up and make your own fortune than inherit one.

For my stock that went up $6,000, all I did was make a decision six months ago to buy. Everything else was left up to the management and the markets. I’m a minority investor with no sway over the future of the company. On the other hand, I’m also a minority investor in Bulldog Gin, a private company headquartered in NYC which recently signed a huge distribution and partnership deal with Campari. If Bulldog Gin gets sold to a spirits giant like Diageo for mega bucks in 2020, I feel I’ve made a difference because I not only consumed lots of Bulldog Gin and tonic on my business trip to Mallorca, I also did an interview with the CEO here which helps with publicity through search traffic.

Cementing $400 in an ad deal is a small portion of my online income, but it gives me the most amount of pride because if I didn’t do anything, nothing would have happened. Creating something that didn’t exist before is one of the greatest feelings ever. Even though the Yakezie Network is not a big money maker, I’m happy to run it forever because just several years ago no such network in the personal finance blogosphere existed. The worst case is that I’ve got to spend some money and time maintaining the site from crashing, getting to know new bloggers every day, and helping others achieve their online goals. Not bad.

Knowing our actions make a difference is the number one reason why active income feels so much better than passive income. Although it takes active energy to first create passive income, you no longer feel you deserve receiving the money after a period of time.

2) We want to test our limits.

Money really doesn’t matter after a certain amount. Some researchers say making anything more than $75,000 doesn’t make you much happier. I say making anything more than $200,000 doesn’t make you much happier. I think I have way more credibility than the $75,000 a year earning researcher who has never made much more than $75,000 because I’ve made crap working at McDonald’s and large sums working on Wall St.

Instead of making more money, it’s all about the challenge as many entrepreneurs and investors will attest. This is why you see a lot of high powered jobs with healthy compensation packages look for ex-athletes and ex-military. They’ve got the combination of collaboration and drive.

I had a goal to make six figures from an occupation while I was in high school after one too many crap jobs making $4 an hour. Never again did I want to flip burgers or break my back moving boxes for a living again. Once I achieved the six figure income mark, I wanted to see if I could make six figures passively through investments. And once I achieved the six figure passive income mark I decided to see if I could earn six figures through entrepreneurship.

I didn’t want to think that the only reason why I was able to make six figures is because I got a lucky break by joining a bulge bracket firm out of college. I had to test my limits to see what I could do on my own.

3) We want to feel like we’re maximizing our potential.

Nothing is sadder than seeing someone with so much potential achieve nothing due to a lack of effort. If you’re 8 feet tall you better try out for the NBA and make your millions! If you can play Mozart conciertos by the age of 3, then hopefully your parents push you to be a world class musician without pushing you into madness. I think the majority of us wished our parents pushed us harder growing up, even though during the time we hated every minute of their discipline.

Thankfully, I’m neither tall, handsome, gifted, patient or very smart despite what my mother says. As a result, I don’t think my parents expected anything great from me except to be happy. The only thing I have inside that might be higher than average is focused intensity. Due to my very average expectations ever since senior year in college, I’m easily satisfied with what I have. But I’m always wondering whether I’ve pushed myself hard enough to maximize my potential.

DON’T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN THE GLORY OF PASSIVE INCOME

Generating enough passive income to live a good life is wonderful. I’m still only half way to my ultimate passive income goal with probably five to ten more years to go. But take it from someone who has seen both sides of the active and passive income spectrum. You’ll get bored of your passive income streams eventually. You’ll long to start generating active income again because it feels so much more rewarding.

Wanting to see if your actions still matter is the main reason why folks who’ve retired often don’t stay retired for very long. Earning social security, pension money, and dividends is not fulfilling even if it’s a result of a lifetime of hard work. Sometimes you just want to know whether you’ve still got it.

Recommendation: Actively manage your own money with Personal Capital. They are a free online money management tool that allows you to track your net worth, help you budget, and provide investment analysis of your retirement portfolios. Personal Capital will even e-mail you a weekly net worth snapshot. I used Personal Capital mostly to make sure my assets are properly allocated based on my risk tolerance.

Photo: The lion cub was so much more fun awake. Cabo, 2013.

Regards,

Sam

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Matt Becker says

    I can only speak from the experience of my investments, but I think you’re spot on. I do enjoy watching my net worth rise but it doesn’t bring me deep personal satisfaction like when something I actively do produces a monetary result. That’s a big reason why my ideal life doesn’t revolve around the idea of quitting work. Instead it revolves around finding something that I love AND that makes money. I want to be DOING something I enjoy, not just having the option of doing nothing.

    • MD says

      Matt,

      I absolutely agree with this! I think I am about 3 to 4 years out from being able to cut the cord on being an “employee”. Then, I plan to focus on what I want to do. Will I make as much money as I make now? No way but I think will get a greater satisfaction from doing what I love even if I only make 20% of what I make now. I also enjoy seeing my net worth rise but nothing beats a good bonus check!

      My challenge for passive income is that I need to be more aggressive. I am one of those doom and gloomers who sees disaster around the corner. Thus, I keep 2.5 years worth of all my spending needs in cash. I know that isn’t rationale but I find it a hard habit to break.

      • Financial Samurai says

        2.5 years of living expenses as cash is HUGE! Are you keeping it in a money market or checking? Or is it at least earning something a CD?

        I’ve got about 1 month’s worth of living expenses at any given time because I hate cash and the idea that banks are profiting so much from me by offering such a low interest rate.

        • MD says

          Sam,

          On 80 percent of it, I am earning .90% and on the rest .75%. In today’s environment those rates are actually good but I know that I am seriously overdoing things. It really goes back to a period of utter poverty I lived in back in the early to mid 90′s. I guess I am a depression baby 8 decades late. I would like to take a year of that and create some decent passive income. I just need to learn more about my options and have to get over the fear over going broke any minute. It is not rationale. I totally understand that.

        • MD says

          Sam,

          Logically, I agree with you. When I cut the cord I want to have a huge safety net. My wife’s business is going very well so, really, I don’t need one nearly this large. Again, I need to get over the emotion of this and find a good investment that will give me decent passive income.

          That is part of the reason why I read this site – to get ideas.

  2. Andy | Income By Example says

    I definitely enjoy passive income more at this point, but I’m not nearly at the point you are. I get more excited over selling an ebook for $3 or getting $10 in Adsense revenue than I do selling an apartment and making $1,500 commission. I think the reason is that I’ve built something to generate that passive income and it’s rewarding to see that it works, even if the amount is nominal. I’m sure at some point that may fade, but you have to be gracious for what you have, many people would love to be in your position. I know I would. Perhaps you could use the passive income to fund something more rewarding like donating to charity and helping someone in need. Just a thought.

  3. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle says

    You can’t compare the gain in your undervalued stock price to people who have married or been born in to wealth. You made the decision to purchase the stock and continued to monitor it and knew that you were holding on to a winner.

    How many of those people who received easy passive income blew it all by making bad decisions?

    I was able to save enough money to purchase 52 shares of a Vanguard ETF today and I am thrilled with the passive income that will come from that.

    • Financial Samurai says

      I don’t think the feeling of being used to what you have, whether you inherited it or worked hard for it really is all that different. We will take for granted our hard work. At least the production of our hard work will keep working even if we care less.

      Congrats on those 52 shares! Let’s hope the stock market holds strong.

  4. gary martins says

    Passive income is definitely the best! Time freedom man! It is very easy to take it for granted…my online business was pulling ~$10k a month for 3 months and long story short was quickly reduced from market changes down to about $1k a month, luckily I hadn’t quit my full time job yet. Losing a passive income stream hurts the most for someone in my position who still hasn’t cut the 9-5 (8am-8pm?) umbilical cord, I’d imagine even worse for someone who is depending on that to pay the bills. The lesson learned: don’t put all your eggs in one basket…you need many baskets spitting out golden eggs before quitting your job. I still need to read your book!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Yikes, what happened to go from $10K to $1K a month? Google? Definitely good you didn’t cut the umbilical cord. Keep building multiple income streams. I know one blogger who quit her job, then got her husband to quit her job to work on an online business than Google really put the hurt on their business. Stay diversified indeed!

      • gary martins says

        The main focus of my online business is publishing books on amazon kindle, I also create iOS apps. I accidentally (stupidly) published a book with an already existing title without doing the proper research…one cease and desist letter later that book lost all it’s built up steam (was in the top 100 on amazon!) and has not been the same since. That’s rough for your blogger friends… it’s tough to decide when to cut the cord. When did you feel it was finally time? My plan is when I have two passive income streams each individually covering my full time income (~110k + stock options) I would feel comfortable cutting the cord. I just imagine the possibilities having a full day’s worth of time to devote to my online business! Right now, I spend about 2 hours a day after work. Not so good for social life… no pain, no gain!

  5. nbsdmp says

    This article is pretty much spot on…It is exactly how I feel. I’m blessed not because I’ve saved and invested & have the passive income stream, but because I wake up every day and go get to build and create things that I dream up. Seeing something go from an idea scribbled on a white board to convincing people to pay for it, then actually seeing it working like a Swiss watch is very rewarding. You are 100% right Sam, the fun is in the thrill of the chase!

  6. Ravi says

    I suppose we always want what we don’t have. Seems like your point of the “next challenge” is a good analogy. For me, being in my mid twenties and early in my careers, my goals are to maximize active income first and also build an investment portfolio at the same time. Hopefully by having a sizable nest in 15-20 years will allow me the freedom to find a job that I find fun, challenging, continue what I’m doing if I choose, or anything else for whatever reason. Freedom is what money is about in the end, right? The privilege to spend your time as you wish, whether that time makes you money or costs you money.

    Having money making money lets you have that choice. Not having money means you’re not really free… Assuming you want/need the things it buys. For now though, I would agree that active is more exciting. I can’t imagine working for myself yet, but who knows what tomorrow may bring!

    Another fun post to read. Thanks!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Enjoy the journey Ravi! The accumulation phase is the most thrilling of times I’ve found.

      Once you have all the freedom you want, it’s hard not to take time for granted so we’ve got to constantly be mindful of what we have. Good luck!

  7. Anthony Duke III says

    I think our perceptions change. Poor people have problems, rich people have problems. That said, what you are describing is called “self-actualization” or “self-realization”. The primary reason I’m chasing passive income is freedom. Freedom to quite a job if I don’t like it or get bored. Freedom to set my own goals. Freedom to own my own time. Time and money are your 2 primary resources in life and I would argue that your time is more valuable!

      • Anthony Duke III says

        Jobs are overrated, you are just a cog in the gears of the machine, unimportant. I would rather pick my friends based on similar interests and values rather than which company we ended up stuck at together. Steven Covey from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says you want to move from dependent (job) to independent (self-employed) to inter-dependent (business). Companies are cutting costs and all those “perks” are going away. What’s left is being told what to do for 40 hours a week and not getting paid a dime more whether you do an excellent job or just an ok job. The idea of a “safe, secure, stable job” is an outdated, industrial-age idea. Companies come and go in this “throw-away” culture we live in. J.O.B = just over broke!

        • MD says

          Anthony,

          That is insightful. The very structure of our economy began to change about 15 years ago and people are just now catching on. Well, some people anyway. I need at least 3 or 4 more years of employment then I can be free. I know I have the creativity and drive to make $ on my own doing whatever interests me. What I don’t have now is time. As for missing co-workers, I guess that is a consideration. I work for a large company and changed divisions 7 years ago. I worked with these people for years. I found that I really didn’t miss them although I certainly like them. When I finally cut the cord, I can always have lunch or a happy hour with the people I like once in a while.

        • greg says

          As someone who is hot on the path to financial independence if I want it (well before 30 with pretty conservative estimates), having to face imminent freedom has really made me consider things again.

          Just this weekend I was flying back home from San Francisco, and got yet another perspective on things from the retired woman sitting next to me. Without going into details, putting her story together with my uneasiness has led me to believe that I really would enjoy working more after I reach financial independence.

          I’d say there are two things that motivate this on my end despite being so focused on my freedom: 1. my job allows me to do things well while others show appreciation, and 2. I will have the means to contribute to quality experiences with others who do not share my sentiments.

          The last part about then spending on friends and family as well as likely supporting scholarships for study have brought me back into my original right-out-of-school enthusiasm, but with a bit more perspective.

  8. Eliza @ Happy Simple Living says

    I’m smiling after reading this article. I’m self employed, and most of my income is generated by my own hard work. I’ve always felt like I was missing the proverbial boat by not being able to figure out how to generate a bunch of passive income, and now I feel smart, involved and strategic! “Creating something that didn’t exist before is one of the greatest feelings ever.” You are so right! I’m going to drink a Bulldog Gin and tonic in your honor this weekend. :-)

    • Financial Samurai says

      Thanks Eliza! Bulldog Gin is currently only available in NYC, CT, England, Spain, and Portugal. But with the new Campari distribution agreement, BDG should be everywhere in the US starting in January, 2014.

    • Financial Samurai says

      I need to revive the Yakezie Writing Contest. It’s just difficult to motivate people to give and participate. I hate asking people to do something. Folks should want to do whatever they want voluntarily.

  9. Austin says

    Yesterday I was in meetings with a bunch of people who hop from one PE backed venture to the next. They talk about “Oh, Joe, yeah he was involved in NewCo II but left before III to start NewNewCo”.

    On my way back to town I was thinking: Why don’t these guys just walk away into the sunset after they’ve flipped these entities? Why do they keep going back for more, when is it enough? What if their next gig is an epic fail and their PE throws them out of the office… which has literally happened.

    I guess it’s the challenge.

    • Financial Samurai says

      It’s definitely the challenge. And I’m telling ya, folks who constantly create find it BAFFLING that others could simply go and work a desk job day in and day out for the rest of their lives doing the same thing.

      Once you scratch the entrepreneurship itch, you never want to be locked down again.

    • Jason says

      Austin, I ask myself this all the time too and I’ll never understand it.

      Sports stars, actors, you-name-it, after awhile, why do they bother with any of that business BS, right? Just go on a vacation already! It would also create a space so someone else can wet their beak a little!

    • Austin says

      Perhaps the most real answer to that scenario is “OPM”. When you’ve got PE and a hurdle rate for management back-in there’s little downside risk except for your front end equity.

      I’ve scratched that itch in the past with a little bit of success and have always maintained my day job. It turns into an internal struggle for me quite frequently. I’ve always got things going on on the side but sometimes I am ready to walk away from the desk job and give it a full time go. Just can’t bring myself to deal with the exposure.

      • Austin says

        Another thing to note. The guys I am talking about aren’t working half days and sitting on the beach. They’re busting their butts.

      • Jason says

        Well, if they won’t be able to pay their bills unless the company is successful, then yes, I can see them working super-hard.

        But, from what you’ve told me, they’re fully covered, financially. So, to me, the entire thing seems both completely pointless AND a horrible experience as well. Complete insanity.

  10. FI Fighter says

    Interesting post Sam. I can hear where you are coming from about income becoming “boring”. I’m not sure if it’s really active vs. passive, but more about what’s new and exciting vs the mundane. For Type A’s especially, you kind of always need to be working on building something. You like to see progress and aren’t the type to just kick back on the beach and collect checks for doing nothing.

    For someone who’s just starting out and has only earned income, that first passive income check will be the best feeling in the world. I still fondly remember the day I received my first rent paycheck. These days, that luster has faded, but it’s still damn cool collecting checks every month. For me, that feeling will never get old… but I can see how it could for others since it’s kind of on auto-pilot now and you are no longer putting in any effort. Just reaping the fruits of your previous labor.

    Going back to the point of excitement, it’s like how I feel when I earn $1.00 passively for an ad. I’m trying to build something (my blog), so any progress made feels good. If I go to work, I will easily outearn that, making 50x that in just one hour. But the earned income doesn’t generate any emotion.. I’m used to it and the thrill is gone.

  11. The First Million is the Hardest says

    I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I think the most common allure to generating that kind of passive income is that it can give you the freedom to pursue those other challenges in life. I think if you have the kind of drive it takes to start bringing in a significant stream of passive income, you’re probably not the personality type that’s ever going to be content to lay back in a recliner and just cash the checks once you’ve reached your $ goal.

    • Financial Samurai says

      You’re probably right. It takes a lot of focus to get to this type of passive income stream so it’s very difficult to every STOP once you get there.

      But, I did stop when I pulled the parachute on Corporate America in 2012. So, there’s hope for everyone!

  12. Pura Vida Nick says

    Sam, you’ve hit onto something big here. Another way of talking about this is to understand fundamental human needs – needs that EVERY human being has. Two of these needs that we all have are 1. growth, & 2. contribution. This is why passive income doesn’t feel as good and definitely isn’t as rewarding – you aren’t growing as a person when your passive income comes in, and you aren’t contributing anything to society.

    But there may be another way, besides good ole fashioned active income, to meet these needs. Use your creativity and imagination to think of things you can do to grow and contribute, and they can be where you make money or it could be something where you make no money – but you’ll still meet your needs either way. Volunteering…Giving your time…mentoring…being a friend. If you find a cause (or start one) you are passionate about that helps people, you could spend your life giving your time. You don’t have the pressure to create active income because you’re living off your passive, but at the same time you are still growing, moving forward, and giving something to society.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Progress is my one word definition of happiness.

      I think blogging is also a great outlet to help others and interact with others as well. We have a natural tendency to want to share our experiences. Good luck in your blogging journey! Stick with it for 3 years and I guarantee you, you will surprise yourself in many different ways.

  13. Syed says

    Very interesting point of view. After reading this I imagine the wealthy man sitting in his recliner, looking at his growing accounts on his tablet, looking around at his beautiful house and thinking “now what?” Ultimately it comes down to what fulfills you most in life. We all have a finite time on this earth, and spending it trying to see how big our accounts can get when we could be doing something more fulfilling can be seen as a waste of time.

    Then again, building up a nice passive income stream opens up the opportunities to do something fulfilling. I guess it’s all about balance in the end.

  14. Jason says

    Hi Sam – another great article. I really enjoy hearing a perspective from the other side of the fence.

    Passive income, at least for me, is definitely the bigger thrill, especially when I see my monthlies growing every year. There’s also the novelty of flexing the power of it. I’m maxed out on mortgages, so all PI is going to debt paydown and it’s amazing (at least for me) to see what kind of damage this passive income can do.

    OTOH, my paycheck is on complete autopilot. Without a doubt, there’s a complete disconnect in my mind between what I do at my job and my payday amounts.

    But, ultimately, I think it’s the *variety* that drives people. If you have active income, it’s boring and you want to build your passive stream. Once you have that, you want to jump to something more active again.

    Except for me. I’ll never go back to active income. Not ever. :)

    • Financial Samurai says

      Debt repayment is the most gratifying to me…. more so than building passive income. But there’s only one problem w/ debt repayment, it goes to $0 and then what? I think this is part of the reason why people go into debt. The thrill and joy of spending money you don’t have, and the glory of paying it off!

      Never say never!

      • Jason says

        Well, in my case, the debt is mortgage debt, so once it’s paid off it’ll increase cashflow, drop risk, and clear out a slot for (you guessed it) more properties. Can I get a hallelujah?

        Yes, I know, “never say never”. At this point, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and not look too far ahead.

  15. Eric says

    That is an interesting psychology of finance observation. You would think the big rental income would feel better, but I could see how the thrill wears off over time. I always say it is important to be more intelligent than your emotions. The active win might feel better, but it is smarter to appreciate the $2,100 that showed up in your account.

    • Financial Samurai says

      The thrill of a rental INCREASE lasts for a couple checks, then wears off completely. The active win is about creating something out of nothing.

      I think we need to differentiate between an “active” job income and active entrepreneurial income.

  16. krantcents says

    I totally agree! The best times in my business life was when I was building something whether it was in rental properties, restaurant, catering or consulting. It was real and more enjoyable. As far as my investments, it was good too, but different! I think it was because I viewed investments as building for the future and the payoff was also in the future. It gets down to a different mindset.

  17. Sambuca says

    I find that it is much easier to spend frivolously when I am FI than ever before. I am putting in a pool, and I think I’m happier doing that than retiring early. Maybe this is ‘one more year syndrome’ but I love my job, I love my income, and I love my spending! If I had retired, I’d be less likely to spend, although the Market has been great. But the market being great makes me feel like like a king! I’m actually double my FI number and climbing!

      • Sambuca says

        As a chemical engineer, I have done everything from making facilities to produce consumer products to designing topsides for offshore oil production. There is so much variety and challenge in each project, as long as you seek it (some older folks stick to more copy paste so they don’t have to learn new software). As an added bonus, work can take you all around the world. I got to FI because I struggled in my first job, but I have switched companies and gained self confidence. Many experienced engineers are retiring, so there is definitely a supply / demand imbalance. On one hand, if you need your job you may feel squeezed to put in extra hours but if you are in the FI phase, you feel quite empowered. In addition to good pay, it is also a satisfying job and generally well respected, designing something so that Plant Operators will be able to do their work more easily and safely. And people are generally interested to learn more about how things are made. It makes me a little sad to see folks talk about FI meaning RE, as if they will run screaming from their job the first chance they get. Hopefully more folks will find, with FI, RE isn’t always the optimal move, with an added downside that it also impoverishes society. You probably see it with blogging, but what better combination is there than helping others and getting paid for it…

  18. Untemplater says

    I hear your points. As much as I wish I didn’t have to work anymore, there will always be a part of me that wants to stay active and still be able to produce income based on my own efforts and labor. It feels really good working on something regularly and being rewarded for it. So I think I will always work in some capacity, but a more balanced workload than what I have now with a mix of passive and active income.

  19. Matthew Allen says

    As a fella who owns a domain with the term “passive income” in it – I tend to agree with you on this topic Sam. I work very hard to try to create online passive income streams. The key part of that phrase – “I work very hard.” This is where the two types of incomes overlap a little. Yes, passive income is my ultimate goal – but I very much enjoy the active process that it takes to create it. For example, I could work as an employee for somebody else and create websites for a wage. Or – I could do the same thing for myself and maybe not get paid as much up front, but have longer and greater potential for passive income. You see what I mean?

    Side note: I’ve often thought about my last days – when I’m sitting in a nursing home on the brink of dementia and alzheimers. How will I be spending my time? It would drive me crazy to NOT be doing something to try to create income. Whether it be hustling the other residents at poker, online sports betting, blogging or whatever. Even though I’ll work and save for a lifetime in order to not have to work during my golden years – I know I’ll always be looking for some way to actively create income.

  20. Dee @ Color Me Frugal says

    I am inspired by this post, and I cannot wait for the day that I totally understand and agree! Right now the majority of our income is from our jobs and we are busting our butts to reach the day when we don’t need the jobs anymore because we have so much passive income! So at this point I would be more thrilled about an increase in passive income, but I am very much looking forward to the day when I feel like you!!!!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Definitely enjoy the journey though. It’s really the journey that’s the MOST fun. Once you get to your financial goals, you’ll be surprised at how fleeting the accomplishment feels. Trust me on this!

  21. Micro says

    I can see where you are coming from. You want to feel like you are utilizing your time for something constructive and with passive income, you really don’t have to do much with it. That said, I really don’t have much in the way of passive income…YET. It will be interesting to see where I want to go once I have enough to sustain my activities.

  22. MD says

    I had a couple of comments on this thread but they have disappeared. I just want to summarize that I enjoyed all the perspectives given here. As someone who is looking to cut the cord in 3 or 4 years, this type of interaction is invaluable to me. So, thanks everyone!

  23. Joe says

    I like both active and passive income. Active income definitely makes you feel more useful though. I’m way too young to just sit around and have fun. It’s much more fun to work a little bit and make some money.
    Once I’m really comfortable, then I might think about volunteering or doing something else useful. I don’t think anyone should ever stop actively working. Life will be too boring.

  24. Ricky says

    Active income is necessary to achieve passive income, whether you did the work or not. I wouldn’t, myself, say that active is more enjoyable. What you do day to day is what determines whether you’re happy or not. If you love doing business related transactions and working like that, then yes active income is what makes you happy. But the same could be said for someone who has all the money they need and make enough per year passively to do what they really want to be doing, whether it be artistic, scientific, philanthropic, or just enjoying life’s little nuances.

    It’s all about your state of mind. Sam, you obviously enjoy working and making money regardless of your net worth and income, but not everyone gets the same high or is motivated by passive income. I admit I am a lot like you and would rather be making money than most other things, I’m just saying one day I hope I’ll be able to focus on other things than money itself, because ultimately, active income translates into $. Sure there are challenges which are part of the journey that make the dollar worthwhile. But ultimately, if you didn’t receive compensation for those challenges you wouldn’t look at it the same way. See what I mean? All I’m saying is I hope there is a day I can do something just for the thrill and challenge of it rather than the monetary exchange.

  25. Ace says

    Well….. You hit the nail on the head!

    Watching the numbers grow in your brokage account isn’t very interesting (although a very good thing). Once you have a certain amount of wealth & stability, happiness comes from interacting with the world and doing something meaningful.

    BTW: For most Americans, a $75,000/year income is really good; so, I can kind of see what the academics are thinking. If you live in a Dallas or a St. Louis, $75,000 goes very far.

  26. My Financial Independence Journey says

    I like my job, but I vastly prefer passive income. I think it’s because I don’t have any passions that are able to generate reasonable levels of income. And I’ve got exactly zero desire to ever be an entrepreneur.

    Most of my passions are essentially neutral (reading, learning new skills) or consumption based (eating, drinking, travel, etc). If I had enough passive income to keep myself mentally engaged and entertained while still saving a bit each year, I’d probably walk off my job and never work again.

  27. Chris says

    Sam, I believe that if you look even deeper, the reality is that once you’ve achieved enough passive income, that it really only matters what you do with your remaining time in helping others or yourself.

    There is a more recent song that was sang by Miley Cyrus a little while back called “The Climb”. The songwriters were quite wise in what they said, especially in this portion of the song:

    “There’s always gonna be another mountain
    I’m always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be an uphill battle
    Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

    Ain’t about how fast I get there
    Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
    It’s the climb”

  28. Elliott Garber says

    I can totally appreciate this feeling. I’m making the vast majority of my income actively right now, so I long for the day when I actually have some passive income to balance it out. But I know that I will always be on the lookout for new opportunities and get that thrill from pulling in income from a new source.

    P.S. That’s a lion cub, not a tiger! [from your one wildlife veterinarian reader]

  29. Brent says

    I couldn’t agree more and have experienced these feelings first hand. Although I do love “checks to the bank day” (first of each month when rents are paid) but don’t get the same joy as when I close a new deal, have a new tenant sign a lease, sell a $8 item on eBay, etc. Which is crazy when you think about it… but it’s true.

    Passive income is great and I think that everyone should work on investing and creating streams of passive income to, at minimum, cover your monthly expenses but the sooner one realizes that sipping mai tai’s in a hammock in Hawaii in your underwear while the money rolls will get boring way faster than ever imagine the better.

    Thanks for sharing a view on passive income that isn’t often publicly stated.

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