I hope everyone had a good July. It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. By the time you read, we’ll be doing our last-minute packing to go on our European Disney Cruise. It’s breaking the bank, but I’m 46 years old, and my Europe experience is limited to one week in Sicily. The kids, aged 8 and 9, will be old enough to remember the trip, especially with the documentation of digital pictures and movies we have nowadays. LOL, I sound like I’m 106, right?
July was an excellent month for us. My youngest embraced surfing lessons and loves it. Unfortunately, the surfing camps announced their availability late, so we had to book other camps. He’ll have to settle for one-off lessons on the weekends. I went with him to the first lesson this year. I was able to get up and ride a few waves, but he’s much better than I am.
The 9-year-old “found his people” at theater camp. They wrote and produced their own musical, and it was incredible. I would legitimately watch it without my kid in it. The camp is for kids 9-16, and he fits in better with older kids, so it was perfect.
It was a big month for the adults too. My wife and I went to see Bob Woodward speak as he came to town. Since Newport is small, when someone famous comes, it’s an intimate setting, not a stadium like in a big city. We seemed to be the youngest people there. We both agreed that it was incredible. Journalism is under siege as local newspapers struggle, and fake clickbait gets more attention than the truth.
At the end of the month, we saw Bill Murray when he brought his New Worlds Music to town. It was about 300 people and like Woodward it was also incredible. Bill Murray went through the crowd giving out roses and handed my wife one. I missed out on Jay Leno tickets as the website errored and sold out while I was re-entering the purchase information. He did four shows in a small nook that seats about a couple hundred people. He lives in Newport at least part of the year, so hopefully, we’ll get another chance. I missed Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell at the Newport Folk Festival as it’s prime dog boarding time.
Look how happy the crowd is!
The kids started back up on karate after taking a break to try baseball and soccer. They are behind some of the other kids now. That’s okay; it’s not a race to black belt or anything.
My wife booked the good people at Surv to set up a trampoline that the grandparents bought last year. We’re so behind on so many projects. We finally got our ceiling fixed from the January leak. They had to work around the plumber fixing the garbage disposal. He said we needed a new one, so we ordered on. When they installed that they found out that it was an electrical issue all along. At least the company gave us a bit of a discount.
Got the kids to use a different kind of screen. This has fewer pixels, is outside and leads to a lot more exercise.
We went out to dinner a few Fridays at the Newport Navy Base. It’s right on the water. We can usually eat for $50, including a pitcher of beer. Below you’ll see a picture of my son with his yo-yo at the base. My other kid has been learning the Rubik’s Cube algorithms (we’re starting with 2×2). Like surfing he’s already much better than I am.
He’s getting good with the yo-yo.
We also found our way to the beach a couple of times. Some of that was related to surfing, but we went independently of that so that the kids could build sand castles other times. On the topic of castles, we went to the Marble House mansion and had tea at the Chinese Tea House. It was very expensive avocado toast, but people traveled quite a distance for the experience. We might as well enjoy the awesome stuff in our own backyard.
My wife did the Red Sox charity Run to Home Base to raise money for veterans’ mental health. She raised $2500 got to run around Fenway and cross home plate. It also came with tickets to the game. The kids don’t have the attention span to watch baseball. With Devers injured at the time, I didn’t have the attention span either (the Red Sox are not great this year). It was still a ton of fun. There are a lot of things you can do besides watch the game. The kids loved participating in the wave.
That’s a lot for one month… let’s start the Passive Income report. I used to call this the Alternative Income Report because some of this income has an active component. However, that idea isn’t catching on, and everyone loves “passive income” better. If you are a new reader, you’re going to want to refer to my Alternative Income FAQ as you may have some questions about the math.
The way I calculate these numbers requires that little explanation – it isn’t intuitive. I do things a little differently to show the journey. For example, we don’t have real passive income from our rental properties. We still have mortgages to pay off. Instead, I calculate the percentage of equity we have to show where on that journey we are. Each month, you’ll see that the bank owns less, and we own more. There will be no mortgages when we own 100%, and all that rental income can be used for living expenses. When calculating the percentage of rental income, I take the rent (minus estimated expenses) and multiply it by the portion of equity we own. Think of it like you and a friend owning a property 50/50. This would be how you’d handle it, with each of you splitting the profits at the end 50/50.
Lazy Man’s Passive Income
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 my “somewhat active” income. They are a little passive because I can make money even when I’m not immediately tending to them. I leave real estate and investment income as their separate main sources of very passive income. This way, if you want only to count those, you can do that.
1. Blogging + Dog Sitting Income
July was our second best dog sitting month ever. I probably could have had a record, but I closed down so I could see my wife do the Run to Home Base. Tourism in the summer months of Newport is always a lucrative time. You may wonder how I could do everything above, but they are quick excursions.
Blogging also went well. I think I just got lucky with the advertisers. I think I know how to do a lot more SEO stuff that could make more money, but it would take a lot of time to rewrite much of my 2500 articles, and I’m too Lazy for that. I’m having more fun writing new content on Kid Wealth.
In June, “dogs and blogs” combined for $4,847.86. In July, it was:
Total Blogging + Dog Sitting Income: $7,671.19
I beat April’s record by less than $10! I actually got a $15 tip on August 7th for a stay back in July as the owner looked to book again. I had already written most of this, but I’m doing a rewrite for the record. I think I’ve reached the limits of what I can do with dog boarding without adding other services. There’s more potential with blogging, but that might be another year or so for Kid Wealth to start getting advertising deals.
My kids help with the dog sitting. My 9-year-old is extremely good with dogs at this point. He can feed them, let them out, and play with them in the yard. He’s spending more time in front of the clients as a helper at pick-ups and drop-offs. My 8-year-old was a little slower to develop dog skills, but he’s carved out a household niche catering to the smaller dogs – he just loves them. They recently finished up vet summer camp at the local animal shelter.
Their help means I can pay them a legitimately earned income (a 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. Learn why you should get started with a kid Roth IRA as soon as possible.
(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
It’s another ho-hum month, except, wait….
***NEW, NEW, NEW***
Yep, there’s something new this month. We’ve had three rental properties for ten years now. In July, we sold one, and now we’re down to two.
Selling the property was threading the needle. Even though the lease was over and the sale was agreed upon, the tenant wouldn’t leave, so we had to get an eviction. I hear that’s more common nowadays because rents are high, and people don’t want to move on when they have a nice low rent. I have lost patience managing it from far away, and we were able to get it sold at a high price because the buyer locked in a mortgage rate a couple of months ago. She went a little crazy and threatened a neighbor who got a restraining order against her. She finally did the right thing with the lease over and the restraining order in place.
This means we’ll have a lot less potential rental income from our properties. We’ll also have fewer liabilities.
The sale gave us some cash that we could invest. We’re moving money from rental property income to dividend income. Dividend income will be easier, but it’s also less money. I recently did some analysis of this in my stocks vs. real estate article. For this particular property, it was a good move to sell. Even if we had owned 100% of the property, the rent would make only a 4.2% return. We can make our money work harder elsewhere.
One of the Newport mansions has this tea house. It feels authentic to me, but I’m no expert.
While selling the property was the big change, Zillow decided our remaining properties weren’t worth as much. That seems fair with the housing market cooling down.
We went from 76.84% to 74.86% ownership of the equity in our properties. It’s very rare for it to drop, but we’ve only got the two properties now. Our equity dropped, but our liability did too. The other thing that dropped is our expected income. If we owned both remaining rental properties with no mortgages (100% of the equity), we’d make about $2,200 a month after insurance, property taxes, condo fees, and estimated condo maintenance.
I like to use an “expected rent” as we’re currently trying to catch up from years of very low rents. We liked our tenants, so we’ve kept them at a discount. However, with housing and rents going up so much, so quickly, there’s a massive gap between what we could reasonably be bringing in and what we are bringing in.
If you multiply our expected net rent of $2,200 by the amount of equity we have, 74.86%, you get $1,647/mo. in estimated passive income. That’s a loss of a whopping $1141 from last month. It’s good that we got a lot of cash from the sale to invest in other assets.
When I started tracking this (January 2017), we only owned 36.4% of the properties, and the properties had lower rents. The math worked out to $1,174 back then. In 5.5 years, it grew a lot but dropped to $1,647, which is still good, especially with a check of $250,000 or almost $50,000 a year.
When we get 100% ownership, it should bring in about $25,000 after expenses. Rent is inflation resistant as it’ll rise over time. That means that even though this is $25,000 in today’s dollars, we don’t have to worry about it buying fewer goods and services in the future.
Total Rental Property Income: $1,647
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. For example, HDV is currently paying about a 3.61% yield, but it has been less in the past.
There’s a chance we could do better than this. There are some income investing ideas here. We can also look at making passive income with Dividend Kings. If we wanted to simply retire on this dividend income, I would get Sure Dividend’s newsletter to try to get a 5% average dividend yield. (That link to the newsletter has a special discount rate; in full disclosure, I make a few dollars if you sign up for it.)
Bucket list item checked off – family at Fenway. Sweet Caroline!
Of course, our investment plan isn’t entirely centered around dividend income. The 2.5% dividend is a conservative number that helps us think about what kind of cash we can expect. Our portfolio there will pay almost 3% in dividends, but we should see asset growth. Many experts suggest using a standard 3.5% or 4% withdrawal rate. Our numbers here would be much more if we did that.
The stock market had its best month in a long time. We would have seen this rise even if we didn’t have the significant change mentioned above. With the sale of the investment property, we have more cash to invest here. That covers some of the losses we saw in the real estate section.
Until the recent sale of that investment property, more than 97% of this money was in our retirement accounts. That meant the retirement money would be invested for at least another 13 years until age 59.5. Now we have a healthier mix of money for which we can invest and receive a check.
We continue to get a profit-sharing check since I bought (a lot of) a company. The investment income from this is essentially the same as dividend income. It is taxed differently, but for this report, it makes sense to group all stock ownership in this bucket.
Total Dividend-ish Income: $4,132.00
Last month, it was $3,406. A gain of $726 is a big move, but most of it is the transfer. If the markets return to new highs, maybe we’ll knock on the door of $5,000 a month! This monthly number of $4,132 would be almost $50,000 a year.
When I started tracking this number in January 2017, we were at $1,180/mo. It’s been a tremendous last 5.5 years, even if the previous year hasn’t done much. With the sale of the property, it might be hard to compare this number with the January 2017 numbers going forward.
If you have the chance to hear Bob Woodward speak, run, don’t walk, to take the opportunity.
One of our goals has been to have more cash that we can use before retirement age. My wife had been wanting to retire, but then got awesome new job. The shine of the new job has worn off, so the pendulum has swung back to the middle. That’s a roller coaster of emotions. Some days she wants to retire, and other days, it seems like she wants to work for many more years. Whatever she wants to do is fine with me. At least this new job is much better than the last one. She’s had time to bring the kids to school and do things like that.
For the 25th month in a row (?), we’re looking into estate planning, but they gave us a lot of paperwork to do before we can move forward. I’m still not making any progress on this. Maybe when the kids are back in school, and I’m back from FinCon.
Very Close to Passive Income
Our “very close to passive income” combines rental property income and dividend income. If we had any royalty income from books, movies, or music, I’d also include that. I’m too tone-deaf to have a rockstar music career, but I may write a book someday. This is important to separate from the dogs and blogs’ income. That takes some active work to keep up. Rental property requires a little work, but not nearly as much.
There is where we see how selling the investment property worked out. We clearly have less work as we move assets from the real estate to dividend income. However, we also lost potential passive income as the rental property would have performed better. It’s not that big of a loss, though, as we’re still looking at numbers similar to where we were in early 2021.
We also moved some of the passive income from “potential” to “active”, meaning that the dividends are real money we can spend. They aren’t real estate assets that make money when mortgages are paid off or money we can access without penalty when we are of retirement age.
Somehow Bill Murray in concert just works!
I love having both rental property and stock market income working together. With the stock market dropping recently, our real estate has saved our net worth from dropping further. And now, we locked in those gains with the sale. It was the opposite for the last decade – real estate didn’t do much while stocks quadrupled. I think everyone interested in FIRE should consider having stock market and real estate income streams. The diversification gives me great confidence that we’ll be better prepared than most FIRE folks 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 a while. Of course a bad economy may impact both at the same time, but that’s what an emergency fund is for.
Very Close to Passive Income: $5,779.00
This would be almost $70,000 a year of passive-ish income. We wouldn’t need to touch the investments themselves. We wouldn’t have to sell stocks or have a “withdrawal rate” – just live off dividends. We wouldn’t have to get a reverse mortgage on our home or the investment properties. Property maintenance and property taxes for rental properties are already factored in. We would still have all the underlying assets (property, stocks, etc.) and be able to pass these on to the kids for them to build on – unless we draw them down for more fun, charity, or other spending.
Having around $75,000 passive income was my goal when I started this blog. I figured that would be winning the money game as it would be enough to cover our needs and most of our wants. We’ve dropped out of that $75,000 goal briefly, but that’s okay. As you can see from the charts, the growth is slow and steady.
This $5,779.00 of “very close to passive income” has grown from $2,354/month in January 2017. So in less than six years, we’ve much more than doubled our passive income (an extra $1,000 from the double). It’s an excellent income for many people even in their top earning years. This is one of the reasons why I went with the “Lazy” name; it shows that investing money can do more “work” (or somehow produce more value) than active working can. It’s a crazy system. I’m just doing my best to work within it.
It’s worth noting that, once again, most of these numbers are fudged and aren’t “real” (except for the profit-sharing check and the new investment income) because the money isn’t liquid. We can’t spend those retirement investments or the equity we have in properties. We don’t feel “rich” by any stretch of the word, even though we are relative to many people’s circumstances. We still have some day-to-day struggles with money. These are relatively minor compared to what most people experience, I imagine. The recent sale will help us feel a bit more financial freedom right now. We’ll still have plenty of money working for the future.
I used to wonder if we could get to $8,000/month in passive income by the start of 2025. I thought it would be difficult, but it looked like we’d hit the mark earlier. Now, it seems like more of a challenge. We’ll just have to see how it goes as time’s arrow marches forward.
Final Passive-ish Income
When you add up “dogs and blogs” to the “very close to passive income,” you get:
Passive-ish Income: $13,450.19
Last month it was $11,058.86. The big difference was an increase in dogs and blogs because we didn’t leave on vacation. It also helped to have a holiday and holiday rates.
That would be over $160k a year. That (hypothetical) annual income for writing on a blog, taking care of dogs, investing, and landlording is very nice. For the year, we’re averaging around $135k from all these – which is more than for our necessary expenses for the next 45 years. Of course, those necessary expenses aren’t going to cover all our spending, but they are a large percentage of it.
None of the numbers here include my wife’s bread-winning day job as a pharmacist or the (small amount of) freelance work I’ve been doing over the last few years (which isn’t passive at all). When my wife retires, we can count her vested military pension as more genuinely passive income. For now, those jobs (and the dog boarding) are the fuel that drives the passive income engine – it allows us to live well, pay off our mortgage, and invest. My income doesn’t match my wife’s, but the flexibility gives me the time to stretch almost every dollar in much of our spending. It also allows me the flexibility to bring the kids to school and after-school activities.
I love two things about the graph below. First, there’s a definite trend of the numbers staying high for several months. Second, it doesn’t dip down too far. It seems like it should be at least $8,000, maybe $9,000.
(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 fascinating as I don’t share the exact numbers. That’s why it’s just a footnote here, not its own article.
I truly believe that net worth is one of the most critical numbers in personal finance, so it is worth sharing in some way. Showing relative growth can be helpful.
We saw our net worth drop by 0.55% last month. Most of that could be attributed to the selling costs of the property. The market did well, but Zillow valued our properties as being worth less money. For the year, our net worth is up 1.18%. That’s not bad, considering the markets are still down about 15% or so.
Recently for something new, I decided to share our liquid cash growth (or loss). I’ve been tracking it for some time but never thought to share it. Many other bloggers break down their income and expenses in great detail. I’m too “Lazy” for all that, even if my credit card reports can do much of it. Looking at our liquid cash is a way to gauge the bottom line, income minus expenses.
This month, we gained a lot of liquid cash with the sale. Our liquid cash to net worth ratio was 3.67% last month, and now it is 11.73%. I’m also counting non-retirement investment accounts in this number since we can always sell and withdraw the money.
It’s important to recognize that everyone is in a different place in their financial journey. I’ve been blogging about personal finance for almost 16 years. FIRE wasn’t a “thing” back in 2006. We naturally are further along in that journey than some younger readers who may be just starting. Some of those readers are saddled with huge student loans that we didn’t have to deal with. 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 10 of blogging and early retirement planning. Please try to use it as motivation for what may be possible (depending on your circumstances and market luck) over 15-20 years.
There’s a big wild card in calculating our net worth. Now that my wife’s military pension is vested, it’s reasonable to ask whether we should include it in our net worth. If the US government didn’t back it like treasuries or FDIC, I may feel I should account for some uncertainty. I decided that it does make sense to include it. She could have earned a larger immediate salary 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. However, like most of the money mentioned in this article, this isn’t money we can spend right now.
How was your month? Let me know in the comments.