It’s the middle of the month and that means it’s time to review August 2020’s passive income.
August was a mess because our tenants broke their lease and we proceeded to list and sell our condo. We’re trying to do a 1031 exchange which means that if we act quickly we won’t have to pay taxes on the gains. The goal would be to have the property closer to where we live now. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to identify and move forward on the replacement property.
August was also a time when the kids didn’t have camp or school. In a non-COVID world we would have had at least a week of vacation. We had expected to be able to go to Hershey Park, but COVID numbers got worse and we didn’t want to be in a position to have to quarantine before the kids could get back to school.
We were able to get to vacation again at Block Island. We went looking for the glass orbs that are hidden there as part of a deal with the tourism board. Each kid partnered with a parent and made their own team name, shirts, and flags. Here’s Team Floppy Whale. I’m purposely extending my stomach because the iron-on letters stick on well. It was a tough balancing act for this picture.
You can read how the hunt went as well as how to save money on Block Island.
We also got to do a local beach party/fundraiser, which included s’mores, non-alcoholic beverages, ice cream, and live music. We even got to go to a local water park.
All COVID things considered we had a full month as you’ll hopefully see in the pictures. I’ve read that the pictures aren’t showing up for some users, so if that’s happening please send me a mail. I saw this happening myself once, but then it started working and I have no idea what could be going on.
That’s enough lead-in… let’s start the Passive Income report. I used to call this the Alternative Income Report, but everyone loves passive income better. While I transition to the new terminology, there may be some “alternative income” mentions including the FAQ. If you are a new reader, you’re going to want to refer to my Alternative Income FAQ as you’ll likely have a lot of questions.
The way I calculate these numbers requires that long explanation – it isn’t intuitive at all. The reason why I do things a little differently is that it is a journey. For example, we don’t have passive income from our rental properties while we are paying down their mortgages. These numbers reflect the progress of that journey.
Lazy Man’s Passive Income – August 2020
I categorize our passive income into 3 main sources that are largely represented in my passive income pyramid. For this report, I ignore the bottom section, “career/job” – that’s not passive at all. (I do have some income in that area, but that’s not the focus of this report.) I combine dog sitting and blogging into one section of “somewhat active” income. I leave real estate and investment income as their own separate main sources of very passive income.
1. Blogging + Dog Sitting Income
After a few months of zero dog sitting, we’re getting dog requests again. July was an almost half a normal month. August was almost exactly the same as in 2020. It seems like for the first time dog sitting is back after COVID.
Blogging income has been consistently low since coronavirus started. Advertising is down, but our spending, in general, is down too. Few people are searching for information about retiring early. In August it was particularly low as I didn’t pay for some advertisements I placed. Those payments should be coming this month and in October. Hopefully, that will set me up for a record-breaking close to the end of the year.
(My oldest plays with one of the only young puppies we’ve boarded. He was only around for a few hours – just the right about fun with minimum destruction.)
You may have noticed that I hadn’t been writing as much. It was tough with the kids around all the time. Often writing blog posts doesn’t pay off until the future. Also, sometimes an advertiser may make a small change that temporarily negates a month of writing. It’s a little like investing in the stock market. I’m investing more money in the form of time spent blogging, but the stock market could go down and end up losing money. That still doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have invested that money in the first place.
In July, dogs and blogs combined for a total of $2,407.09. In August, it was:
Total Blogging + Dog Sitting Income: $1995.01
Now that dog sitting is coming back my kids can get back to work and pitch in to help. My 7-year old even went to the animal shelter for camp and came back with so many tips and tricks for training dogs. This help means that I can pay them a legitimately earned income (a small percentage of the overall dog-sitting income). Because the income is earned they can save money in their kid Roth IRAs and it will be money that they’ll never pay tax on. I want to get them more involved in blogging, taking pictures and things like that, but it’s going slow. I have a plan for them to be able to help with a few articles by the end of the year. I need to work quickly though, because once school starts in a few days, it will be hard to get them focused.
(Note: The blue line is the monthly number. The red line is a 3-month average which helps smooth the curve.)
2. Rental Property Income
Once again, we keep reaching new highs in real estate ownership. The value of our properties took a big jump. As with every month, we paid off a couple of thousand dollars of mortgage debt and grow some equity. This combination leads to growth in this area.
The big news is that we lost a tenant due to financial hardship, so this category is going to look a little different going forward as we sell one property and buy another. For August we still collected rent, so I don’t see a need to change right away. I have to think about what I’m doing over the next couple of months during the transition. I’m hopeful that in a few months, we’ll be able to say that this number is moving up nicely with the new property.
My 6-year-old asked for only brown M&Ms and, despite us yelling at him, Newport Creamery made it happen. He wanted to make dirt for his gummy worm sundae creation.
We now have 66.10% of the equity in our properties with a combined rent of $3,325 after insurance, property taxes, condo fees, and estimated maintenance. I use that number because it represents our net gain.
If you multiply $3,325 by 66.10% you get $2,198 in estimated monthly passive income. When I started tracking this (beginning of 2017), we only owned 36.4% of the properties and they had lower rents. The math worked out to $1,174 back then. So in 43 months, we’ve seen the number grow $1024/mo. That’s like giving ourselves an annual $12,288 raise until the end of time. It’s a very nice gain from almost 4 years ago.
The change in properties will be a real test of this accounting procedure. We’ll suddenly lose a percentage of equity, but the rent profit should grow. I’m curious to see how it all works out when the dust settles.
(Kids love their boogie boards in the ocean. Hopefully surfing classes will open next summer)
As the years march on, the ratio will grow to 100% of a rent that should be around $3,750 monthly Since rent is inflation-resistant, we can raise it as costs of living go up, we don’t have to factor in inflation like other investments. With the change in properties, we may be more likely to reach the annual $40,000 income. It should be enough money for us to live on with our own home paid off (plus our solar panels, frugal shopping habits, and military healthcare.)
In the previous report, the rental property income was $2,155. This number always moves slowly as it only changes if one of two things happens: 1) The properties go up in value. 2) We charge more for rent.
Total Rental Property Income: $2,198
3. Dividend Income
For this section, I assume we will earn a 2.5% dividend yield on our holdings. That could be from a high-dividend ETF or from simply holding strong companies that have a long history of dividend growth. For that we’ll look at making passive income with dividend kings. If I wanted to simply retire on this dividend income, I would get Sure Dividend’s newsletter to try to get closer to a 4% average dividend yield. That link to the newsletter has a special discount rate and in full disclosure, I make a few dollars if you sign up for it.
(This one-player Gravity Maze is a big hit with my puzzle-loving 6-year old.)
On the last snapshot, August 5, the market was doing great. It’s only continued to go up from there to this month’s cutoff on September 5th. Maybe the market loves the free money that the government is giving out. Maybe it’s looking forward to vaccines and opening up the country for business. I’m scared by all this, but I can’t deny the math. The market has done very well over the last month. Those last four sentences were actually straight from the last report. I didn’t have to change anything, because the market continued as you probably know. (The market had a set-back after I compiled the numbers, so we’ll have to visit that next month.)
We continue to get a profit-sharing check since I bought (a lot of) a company. The business is doing well. It’s actually almost ideally positioned due to its virtual nature. The investment income from this is essentially the same as dividend income. It is taxed differently, but for the purposes of this report, it makes sense to group together all stock ownership in this bucket.
Total Dividend-ish Income: $2,999
Last month, it was $2,958. We were a little past the pre-COVID numbers. Growing $41 over the month is very strong.
Annualized, this monthly $2,999 is ~$36,000. If our mortgage was paid off, we probably be able to live on this by itself. However, because most of our investments are in retirement accounts, we can’t use much of this income for now. (We can use the profit-sharing check as it goes straight to our checking account.) We’ll let the rest of this income continue to compound for at least another 15 years until we are 59.5, but hopefully a lot longer.
Very Close to Passive Income
Our “very close to passive income” is a combination of rental property income and dividend income. If there were some royalty income from books, movies, or music, I’d include that here. I’m too tone-deaf to have a rockstar music career, but maybe there’s room to have a book someday.
(I got the Trolls World Tour movie from Redbox for free due to an email promotion they were running. It had a bonus dance at the end. Definitely a better value than paying $20 when the COVID lockdown started)
The stock market goes up and down fast, even more so nowadays. That makes the dividend calculation fluctuate a lot more than it normally would. We don’t even know if companies can reliably pay dividends anymore. Without customers, and profits, many companies have cut their dividends.
The rental property income typically keeps going up because the mortgages are always getting paid down every month. Unless there’s a housing market crash, this should continue to happen. We haven’t seen any kind of crash yet.
For a few years, I’ve been saying:
I love having both types of income working together for us. I think everyone interested in FIRE should have stocks and real estate income streams. The diversification gives me great confidence that we’ll be better prepared than most people in the case of an unfortunate economic event. We’ll still likely get rent checks if the stock market crashes. We’ll still get dividend checks if a tenant is late paying for awhile. Of course a bad economy may impact both at the same time, but that’s what an emergency fund is for.
(Every year the kids play on these rocks while we enjoy weekend concerts at the local Navy Base. It’s cheap and fun for all. This year is different with no concerts and eating being an adventure, but they made the most of it.)
Here we are in an unfortunate economic event. Our stocks went down a lot, but then went back up. Our real estate has held steady. A couple of our tenants continue to pay rent, but one couldn’t and chose to move out before telling us. Overall, the plan keeps rolling along, even during COVID.
While the stock market is doing well, the real economy is terrible. No president wants to see six-figure homeland deaths, and an unemployment rate balloon to ~15%. They shouldn’t want to see climate change create millions of acres of fires. The best answer is a bailout of nearly everyone and everything at a cost of several trillion dollars… and it may go up from there. If only the people in political power believed that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, the United States would be in a much better situation. To make things worse, he doesn’t acknowledge that the United States had the worst response of any country.
Very Close to Passive Income: $5,197
Last month it was $5,113. We are making new highs every month. This would be $62,359 a year of almost completely passive income thrown off investments without ever drawing down on them – no selling stocks or reverse mortgages. We would still have all the underlying assets (property, stocks, etc.) and be able to will these to the kids for them to build on.
(With the New Octonauts movie hitting Netflix, the kids found their love of their old “Gups” that had been collecting dust for 2-3 years. You can see some of the high tech toys I have bought in some of these pictures, but I love when they simply use their imagination.)
This “very close to passive income” has grown from $2,354 in January 2017. It’s worth noting that, once again, these are fudged numbers that aren’t “real” yet (except for that profit-sharing check). Add in stock market growth (of a conservative 4%) and this number could be real, non-fudged $100K/year. I’m especially looking forward to 7 years from now when most of the mortgages on the investment properties (and our primary residence) are paid off. That’s going to be a huge financial swing for us.
Final Passive Income
When you add up “dogs and blogs” to the “very close to passive income” you get:
Passive Income: $7,192.01
Last month it was $7,520.09. If not for that invoicing issue, we probably would have had a new record for post-COVID passive income. There’s still some time left this year to reach new records.
This nearly ~$7200+/mo income is ~$86K+ a year. That largely hypothetical annual income for writing on a blog, taking care of one dog, and investing feels like a dream. In the long term, $86K would be a lot more income than we’d need. Here’s what our necessary expenses look like… for the next 45 years. Of course, those necessary expenses aren’t everything, but it’s a large percentage of everything.
(The local water park may not have had the most slides and excitement, but it was enough for a couple of hours – perfect for a 6 and 7-year-old to have a great time.)
As 2020 has proven, you never know what bad news is lurking around the corner. This preparation gives us the financial flexibility to fight it.
None of the numbers here include my wife’s bread-winning pharmacist income, her vested military pension (more passive income), or the freelance work I’ve been doing over the last couple of years (which isn’t passive at all). That’s the fuel that drives the passive income engine – it allows us to invest more and live well. This is especialy true since I’m good at strenching a dollar.
As always, I’m still hoping to write a book someday. That would add some more passive income. My wife will probably get her book out first. She had an incredibly interesting life until she met me – I am so boring. I may tip my toe into self-publishing sometime next year. I would love to talk to a real publisher, but I don’t want to take on the “job” of writing. That’s probably a deal-breaker. If you know someone who I could talk to contact me.
My favorite thing about the graph below is that it doesn’t dip down too far. It’s been above $6,000 for a while now. I thought that it may be tested with the coronavirus, but it doesn’t look like it will be. It’s consistently over $7,000, but I haven’t been able to turn the corner and make it $8,000 for a while.
(Once again, the blue line is the monthly number. The red line is a 3-month average which helps smooth the curve.)
Net Worth Update
My net worth updates aren’t very exciting as I don’t share the exact numbers. That’s why it’s just a footnote here.
I truly believe that net worth is one of the most important numbers in personal finance so it is worth sharing in some way. Showing relative growth can be useful, I think.
Like most investors in August, our net worth did very well. It was a big jump of 2.83% growth. For the year, our net worth is UP 12.10%. If you didn’t know better you might think 2020 was another boring year and a typical saving and investing plan.
(My 6-year who loves to build creates a rock tower at Block Island. He could have probably made them all day.)
Diversification helps a lot in bad times. Even when the stock market was way down, we were still grounded with our real estate. We can’t control the market, but we can be happy that the amazing river of compound interest has been working well for us over the years.
I feel it’s important to acknowledge that everyone is in a different place in their financial journey. I’ve been blogging about personal finance for 14 years. FIRE wasn’t a “thing” back then, but it’s in the news all the time now. We naturally are further along in that journey than some younger readers who may be more towards the beginning their journey. If you are one of these readers, I hope you won’t be discouraged by some of the numbers above. I didn’t start many of these graphs until year 11 of blogging (year 13 of early retirement planning). Please try to use it as motivation for what may be possible (depending on your circumstances and market luck) over 10-15 years.
There’s a big wild card in calculating our net worth. Now that my wife’s pension is vested, it’s reasonable to ask whether to include a pension in your net worth. I decided that it does make sense to include it. She could have earned more direct monetary compensation if she didn’t work for the government. That would have boosted all the numbers across the board. Calculating pension value is not easy, but here’s the best way to know what a pension is worth. In the end, it seems my wife’s pension may be worth $2.3 million. However, like most of the money mentioned in this article, this isn’t money we can spend right now.
Because the pension would ridiculously dominate our net worth, I’ll note two separate numbers in my personal spreadsheet. I don’t share the numbers anyway, aside from these hints, so I don’t think it should matter much to you. It’s not like I’m suggesting that you might want to make a financial-based decision on a pension.
I always end this article by asking how your last month went. I know that COVID-19 is making everything difficult. I hope that some of it is getting easier. I’m sure that for many the kids going back to school, in whatever form, represents new challenges and anxieties. Feel free to use the comment space to vent, I try to give a thoughtful reply every comment I get.