This article lists the best passive income investments of 2022 according to my views. If you are a casual reader of this blog, you probably know my philosophy. Accumulate enough money, invest it so that your money can generate an income for you. Forever.
- The Passive-o-Meter
- 1. Stocks and Dividends
- 2. Property Crowdfunding
- 3. Buy-to-let investments
- 4. Your own Product / Service
- 5. Cash Deposits
- 6. Fixed Income
- How to get started with Passive Income
The beauty of having passive income streams is that you no longer need to trade your time for money. You work once, but you hold on to your “investment employees” as long as you can. These little employees are very productive and over time, they will surely beat you in productivity. Eventually, your money can work harder than you can 🙂
Generating enough income from your investments sits also at the core of the financial independence (FIRE) philosophy. I still remember how nice I felt when I received my dividends for the first time. It was as little as £12.80 but it didn’t matter. It was money for free! Well, sort of. Nobody likes to talk about how hard we worked to accumulate invested assets and avoid purchasing stupid things for instant gratification.
But how does one choose what the best passive income investments are for them?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution here simply because different people have different risk appetite, tolerance, income needs and investment horizons! The reason I’m writing this post is to compare all the different investment options on a risk/return basis without forgetting some important topics such as liquidity and taxes!
Last but not least, different investment vehicles have different “passiveness”. Managing multiple tenants in a single property (HMO) is much more time-consuming than receiving interest from premium bonds. But HMOs offer a higher return! That sort of thing.
Introducing, the Passive-o-Meter! All investments below are ranked by “passiveness” and by the passive income they produce.
1. Stocks and Dividends
In the past 100 years, the stock market has doubled your money every ~7 years. It has returned roughly 10% per year before inflation. It’s a very passive way to create recurring income if you invest in passive index funds. But how can you trust the stock market goes up and why is it one of the best passive income investments?
In a few words, the stock market represents the world’s greatest businesses all in one place. By investing in stocks (shares) companies pay you money for holding a small slice of ownership and trusting your money with them.
This reward comes in two parts. The first part is dividends. Companies will distribute a small part of their profits to attract investments. Currently, for example, Apple will pay me 1.67% per year in the form of dividends if I hold its stock.
The second part is capital growth. Companies earn more over time because they find ways to be more productive and increase their earnings. Not all companies succeed. In fact, most companies go bust or merge with other companies. It’s a living ecosystem. But some companies cover the losses of others, and then some! Therefore, on aggregate, the total earnings per share are positive.
Which is why the best way to invest in stocks is via buying a fund which owns all stocks in the world. This is a low-cost way of owning the majority of the stocks without
Why do stocks go up?
Have a quick look at this chart. This is the logarithmic chart of the largest US businesses (S&P 500) since 1950. Do you see the trend?
There are three reasons why stocks go up in the long term and why this is unlikely to change. These are:
- Population growth
As workers become more productive, they create more products/services per year. Thanks to the advancing technology, productivity (as measured in GDP) is a steady ride upwards.
Then because of having better products, and also because governments are afraid of deflation, which is bad for the economy, they push for a steady ~2% inflation. And stocks keep up with inflation, as companies raise their product prices and pass on the cost to consumers.
Population growth is the 3rd factor in the equation, although more modest going forward. The crazy growth that we’ve seen in this century is going to stop. For a more detailed analysis, I highly recommend reading the Factfulness book. It sheds some light on global statistics and why humans stop having more than 2 babies as their living standards improve.
Therefore, given our fundamental analysis and the steady growth of the above factors, we should expect a smooth ride when investing in the stock market. But hell no! Human psychology plays a huge role and the price that investors are willing to pay for those earning varies from time to time. This is why we see huge spikes and drops in the stock market. Humans are sometimes greedy sometimes fearful and they tend to go from one extreme to the other, usually at the wrong times too!
Which is why we water our whiskey with other lower risk investments such as bonds, property etc. Watering your whiskey is a great expression taken from the Smarter Investing book of Tim Hale.
Risk/Reward when investing in Stocks
The total annualised return of US stocks since 1970 is 10.53%. Now, this is quite high but it comes at a cost. The cost of riding the ups and downs, or in other words, volatility. Your investments can go down 50% in a year without a warning.
Over the short-term (<5 years) nothing really guarantees that stocks will return a profit. But over the long-term, investing in stocks is one of the best passive income investments you can make. You cannot easily beat the stock market unless you create your own business. But we’re talking passive income here, aren’t we 😉
Therefore to avoid the psychological mistakes of selling at a loss, we have to ride the ups and downs by adding bonds into our investment mix. The most common advice is to split your stock/bond allocation by having your age in bonds. So if you’re 35 years old, have 65% in stocks and 35% in bonds. However, this won’t cut it for the FIRE crowd. We simply want to retire by 40 or 50 which means that we definitely need a higher stock allocation so that our money outlives us, not the other way around 🙂 And we need a strong stomach too or other high-income producing activities.
How liquid are my stock investments? You can buy and sell stock funds pretty much instantly every day. So in that sense, stock investments are really easy to trade if you need the money. That’s a double-edged sword though. Having the option to sell anytime, means that it’s easy to do so at the very moment when you shouldn’t! The worse time to sell is when you do it out of panic because you can’t watch your portfolio go down in value.
How do I buy stocks for passive income?
The best way to invest in stocks is by investing in a global low-cost index fund or ETF. The fund includes stocks from all over the world, charges very low fees (<0.40%) and is managed for you by the investment company. My all-time favourite is Vanguard but there are definitely other options such as HSBC, Blackrock, Fidelity etc.
Here are some index fund options for passive UK investors:
- Vanguard FTSE Global All Cap Index Fund Acc
- HSBC FTSE All-World Index Fund Acc
- Vanguard Lifestrategy 100% Equity Fund Acc
Vanguard Lifestrategy 100% comes in different flavours (80% stocks 20% bonds, 60%/40% etc) which is pretty useful.
Hopefully, I gave you enough confidence that investing in stocks for the long term is very rewarding. The best way to get started is to open an account with an investment platform. Halifax Sharedealing or Interactive Investors are two good ones. See also: The Best Stocks & Shares ISA provider.
One of the biggest benefits when buying stocks/funds is that you can hold them inside an ISA. Investing up to £20k per tax year completely tax-free!
2. Property Crowdfunding
Who doesn’t love bricks and mortar? Not only you can brag in dinner parties but you can also make some serious money by investing in property. All world’s richest people have real estate investments after all.
Property Crowdfunding is a new clever way to invest in property thanks to technology. You pool your money with other investors and buy multiple properties or whole buildings. The returns are similar to property investing (7.3% annually so far). The opportunities come live through a property platform online. Similar to the traditional buy-to-let investments, the property platform will take a mortgage (usually 50% LTV) and will fund the property with investors’money. It will take a cut and manage the property for you.
This is one of the main reasons I love property crowdfunding. You don’t need to manage tenants, roof leaks, maintain the property or even find it in the first place. It’s the definition of PASSIVE INCOME. Here’s an example property:
My favourite property crowdfunding platform is Property Partner. You can invest from as low as £100. I have invested £16,000 so far and gradually increasing my investments to £50,000. Since September 2018, the returns have been pretty good. I’m looking at around 8% per year. Here are some of my investments, mainly in the north:
As you can see, I’ve recently put £4,000 in a Newcastle university accommodation which pays 5.97% rent per year. On top of that, I can sell this property now to other investors in the secondary market for the Buy Price of 206p. That’s an extra 6.8% already. Generally, good primary investments tend to sell for higher in the secondary market after they’re funded.
London, on the other hand, has been selling at a 10-15% discount since the property market was overheated, plus B____t uncertainty.
Read about my property partner investments in more detail here.
There are obviously risks associated with property crowdfunding. The biggest one being the platform going bust. In the Property Partner case, they have a contingency plan, where PwC real estate will take over the property management in case things go south. We will still own our properties and collect rent but I wouldn’t want to experience that.
But I believe technology is here to change how we invest in property. There are some serious benefits in investing this way. Property Partner investing is 100% passive and hassle-free. This was one of the reasons I didn’t want to invest in property in the first place. Now property as an asset class has a decent position in my portfolio.
The second reason is liquidity. You can buy/sell properties in the secondary market to other investors without selling the underlying property. Some of my primary market investments, increased by 6-7% when they become available in the secondary market. That’s a huge advantage over traditional BTL because we can realise the capital gains of our properties without actually having to sell. However, liquidity is not always great in Property partner but it’s improving.
Tip #1:Property Partner also offer an ISA so that your money can grow tax-free! That’s only available to development loans which they offer from time to time. Development loans differ from property equity, in the sense that you are lending your money to a developer to build properties and return the capital to you for a fixed return (usually 11%). You don’t have any ownership of the property and you simply play the bank here.
Tip #2: Property partner is available to non-UK investors too which is rare.
Tip #3: I am investing as a limited company which offers a nice little tax hack. Property Partner pays the rent in the form of dividends which are exempt from corporation tax! So, I collect rent tax-free. Therefore it makes sense for me to invest in income-heavy properties (such as student accommodation). Sure, I will have to pay the tax on the capital appreciation part when I sell a property that has increased in value but I collect my rent tax-free!
Make sure to check out their Premium Service if you plan to invest £25,000 or more. You get a personal account manager, they can implement a portfolio based on your custom needs and also invite you to property events, meet the team etc. I’ve been to one and it’s quite cool if you like property as an asset class. You also get a fees discount and early access to property deals before they come live.
I have met the PP team before. If you’re serious about investing in Property and want an intro to someone from the inside I’m more than happy to help.
3. Buy-to-let investments
An article like this would be incomplete if it didn’t include one of the best passive income investment: The traditional buy-to-let investing.
Property has historically been a profitable asset class. Some common characteristics include:
- High returns thanks to leverage (mortgage)
- Rental passive income
- Prices that keep up with inflation but are also influenced by supply/demand and psychology
- Something you can touch!
- Illiquid investment
Despite all the negative press landlords get, being a landlord is a great way to build and grow your wealth. Here’s a screenshot of UK House prices straight from the Land Registry for the last 30 years. 1989-2019.
That’s a total return of 307% in 30 years. You see the upwards trend. The Great Financial Crisis looks like a small blip in the grand scheme of things. House prices are increasing in line by inflation, but here in the UK they have been increasing at a higher rate thanks to higher demand and shortage of supply.
Speaking of returns, if you buy on a mortgage which is the usual way of investing in property, your gains are amplified. This unique characteristic of property investing makes its returns very lucrative. But careful though. Buying on a mortgage means that any potential losses will be amplified too.
This is one of the best books I’ve read on how to get started in property investing. If you’re interested in the traditional buy-to-let way, then The Complete Guide to Property Investment is where you should start your journey.
Rob Dix is also the host of the Property Podcast which offers tons of info on property investing. Be prepared though. There is so much depth in buy-to-let investing and a lot of work you need to do in order to make it work for you.
The upcoming disadvantage I see when investing in property is… drum roll… drum roll please…………. taxes!
The government is trying to fight buy-to-let investing because it’s pushing up house prices and making housing unaffordable for first-time buyers. So the biggest measure they took against landlords was to increase taxes on property income.
You will no longer be able to offset your mortgage interest payments against your income. This is a big minus since as a landlord I want my tenants to pay my mortgage payments and make some profit too. As you can see on GOV.UK by 2021 the finance costs deductible from rental income is ZERO.
They are replacing this with a basic rate tax reduction instead. This sucks for higher income tax-payers or even for basic income tax-payers that exceed the £45,000 threshold after property income.
It’s not all doom and gloom though! The new way of buying properties is through a limited company (SPV). These rules do not apply to corporations and you can expense your mortgage the same way as before. However, mortgage rates for SPVs are usually higher and there is some extra paperwork hassle too to manage your SPV.
This is one of the reasons I went with Property Partner as the optimal tax setup is already taken care of. Another route one can consider is REITs (Real estate investment trusts). Although because REITs are listed on a stock exchange, they behave more like stocks when you want them to behave more like property! So REITs to me belong to the stock category.
BTL Pros and Cons
Personally, I quite like DIY investing. I feel a sense of achievement when reaping the rewards of a good investment or when finding a good tax optimisation hack.
In that sense, buy-to-let investing requires some experience before you start investing. Sure, you may open up Rightmove and start bidding but you need to know how to calculate your expected return, which structure to choose for tax savings, upcoming areas, future infrastructure projects etc. Otherwise, you’re throwing darts in the dark and will be in for a surprise.
But buy-to-let investing can be one of the best passive income investments for those willing to do the work. Not only you get paid your rent every month, but your house goes up in value over time. Owning a portfolio of properties may also feel better compared to say £1m of index-fund investments if bragging is your thing 😉
The biggest disadvantage I see is the low rank of passiveness level. Even if you hire a letting agency to find tenants and manage the property, you will still need to do all the sourcing, talk to the agency for approvals, file extra tax returns, renovate when needed, etc. For one or two properties that may be ok, but as you build a serious property portfolio then I can imagine this taking up a lot of my free time.
Then properties are not liquid investments. If you decide you want your money back, selling can be quite time-consuming (2-3 months) plus costly too. This makes property investing an illiquid investment which has its benefits too. You cannot panic and instantly sell your property when all you need to do is weather the storm 😉
4. Your own Product / Service
Creating your own product is probably one of the best passive income investments you can make. I call it passive, but it only starts being passive AFTER you put in the work to build it first.
Instead of selling your time for money, the idea here is that you work hard in the beginning to build something which will keep paying you for a long time with little or no maintenance. For example, writing a book, creating a blog or a website, making an online course, a YouTube channel or even a mobile app.
Tim Ferris made so much money from the writing of the 4-Hour Work Week book. He didn’t mention though the 80-hour weeks he worked to build a product and a system that allowed him to eventually relax at the beach while his book made money.
In my opinion, passive income from your own product is probably one of the best options out there. Take this blog, for example. It required a lot of work to set up and customise it to my needs. Although it’s quite easy to create a blog these days, it’s not very easy to grow your traffic.
Meet Ali – the Youtuber WoodWorker
I first met Ali about a year ago, and we were discussing property investing together. He briefly mentioned he had recently started a YouTube channel documenting his journey of building a garden room from scratch here in the UK. He is a keen DIY-er and building timber structures is one of his hobbies.
That’s Ali’s page today, one year later. He has nearly 8000 subscribers and as you can see his videos have tens of thousands of views. The videos are in depth yet also a fun watch and his effort is paying off…
My YouTube research tells me that Ali makes around £100 per month from Google Adsense (you know the ads before the videos?) and he has other avenues of income open to him through affiliates, including Amazon Associates. Last time I talked to him, he was surprised people actually find his video series so useful, they sometimes make donations as a thank you using the button on his website.
This shows the value of building a passionate community and the ‘riches in the niches’ as Pat Flynn likes to say. I must put a reminder to interview Ali and have him describe his YouTube experience here on the blog! Whilst any form of content creation will require new material, the back catalogue of Ali’s videos are likely to serve him with passive income indefinitely.
Another example is this blog.
It took months to create a decent number of blog posts that are meaningful and rank well in Google. But now this blog receives about 13,000 unique users a month and this traffic actually generates some money! It definitely took a while, given also that I didn’t promote it at all. But this is now passive income to me, and I can too claim I make money while I sleep. It didn’t come for free. And judging from monster posts like this one, it still requires some effort 😉
But I like the deep work here. It’s rewarding, not financially, but in other ways. I meet new people, enjoy writing and interacting with the personal finance community.
Overall, the passive income you will receive from your own product comes with added benefits. You probably learn tons of valuable skills on the way that are transferrable to other areas of your life. You also learn how to set something up and next time you want to build another asset, it’ll be much easier.
The only risk I see is losing your time and a small amount of money to set it up. But the upside is obvious and the gratification you will get from creating passive income this way is limitless! What are YOU passionate about?
5. Cash Deposits
Cash deposits are at the lowest risk/reward end of the passive income spectrum.
This is the safest option of all, in the sense that you simply cannot lose your capital. You deposit money in a bank savings account and you get paid interest over time. For example, if you deposit money to Goldman’s Marcus online account, you get
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will cover your deposits up to £85,000 if Goldman Sachs fails to keep your cash safe.
As you can see this is a very low reward investment because there is simply a near-zero risk of holding it. I personally only use cash deposits to hold my emergency fund. Note that different banks offer different incentives. For example, I use TSB’s current account to get a 5% gross up to £1,500. That’s £3,000 with my wife’s account. Then use Santander 1|2|3 to get the 1.5% up to £20,000.
6. Fixed Income
Fixed-income on the other hand, is you lending money to the government (or companies) for a given time period. You’re buying government or corporate bonds. Usually, it requires a high minimum amount to buy individual bonds, and for diversification purposes, people buy bond funds. They simply are a basket of selected bonds and can be bought with no minimum restrictions.
The longer the term you lend your money for, the higher the interest. However, the risk associated with your bond holdings gets higher too. If the interest rates go higher, the price of your bonds will fall, all else being equal. Unless you hold until maturity and don’t care about an early exit.
I won’t go into a deep analysis of bonds, duration, maturity etc. For the purposes of a low-risk passive income, people hold high-quality short-term bonds (1-5 years).
But don’t expect great rewards there. A UK investment-grade bond Index fund of 3.3 years average maturity yields 1.3% per year. A UK government bond fund ETF (VGOV) currently yields 1.54%. The volatility of the price though will be significant in case interest rates change because the maturity (18) and the duration (12.74) of VGOV are much higher!
Here in the UK we also have the concept of Premium bonds which offer the chance of winning some tax-free money. But Premium bonds are not for someone looking for regular passive income or for guaranteed returns.
These bond funds are different in nature to other high-yield bond offerings such as the Raptor bond investment (gold and precious metal streaming and royalty finance).
Usually, fixed income is the water in the whiskey of our stock portfolio and it’s a defensive passive income option.
How to get started with Passive Income
With the exception of your own product, passive income starts with saving. To invest, you need to first save so that you can build an army of little money employees working relentlessly for you.
Nothing beats the joy of passive income. You no longer need to trade your time for money and you can use your precious commodity as you see fit. But to get there, you and I need to make some sacrifices first and save save save. The goal is to find a balance and not deprive yourself. There’s no point in living an unhappy life right now to possibly live better in the future.
The ability to save is the most important step in the passive income route. To ensure you save, you first need to see where you can cut some fat from. Here’s how I see it:
- Track your spending using a Monzo card or by looking at your bank account in an Excel
- Find areas where you can improve
- Focus on cutting down the 4 major expenses: housing, car, holidays and commuting
I like the idea of being macro-frugal. So I’m not tracking my expenses, not sweating the lattes and eating out menu items. But when it comes to big expenses, like housing, car, holidays and commuting, I know I’m doing a good job. If you can optimise these 4 areas of your life, you have already optimised 80% of what you can do.
And there’s a limit. There’s so much you can ultimately save. If you want more, then it’s better to increase your income instead.
Last but not least, if you’re just starting out with passive income, you may be feeling overwhelmed. This is just too much to take on! Where do I start? I suggest you start with the most passive options out there that require little or no skill to invest in.
For example, invest in a global index fund, use Property Partner or RateSetter (p2p lending). Then you can start educating yourself on property investing and buy your first flat. That sort of thing. You don’t go buy a multi-tenant property in a remote town if you don’t have the skills yet. Eventually, nothing is hard and I hope you find the investment mix that’s right for you.
I hope you liked the Best Passive Income Investments article. What’s YOUR favourite way of generating passive income? Let me know in the comments!
Disclaimer: This is not financial advice, just how I invest. Investment carries risk. As always, do your own research. This post may contain affiliate links.