When I started this blog a dozen years ago, I had a goal to create enough passive (or close to passive) income to match my wife’s military pension. She’s eligible to retire very early and I didn’t want to work another 20+ years to begin that next chapter of our lives.
Life throws a lot of twists and turns at you over a dozen years. This blog became an actual source of passive-ish income. I added a dog sitting gig to that. We have some rental properties, which makes landlord another side gig for us. Even though some of these take up some time, I define them as alternative income, because they give me a great deal of work freedom.
For much of that path, I just had the blog in addition to my full-time career as a software engineer. The blog’s income helped to cover some of my expenses. This allowed me to invest more money in my company’s 401k plan. (At the time I didn’t have kids and pets, so putting my time into a side gig was much easier. Nowadays, those side gigs and a couple of others have replaced that full-time career.)
With the benefit of a dozen years of (mostly) a bull market, that extra money has grown well. I, like a vast majority of investors over that time, have been extremely fortunate that the stock market has done better than they probably could have imagined.
I was also very fortunate that I grew up in a household that understood investing. It wasn’t a strange concept to me and I owned my first mutual fund shares somewhere around age 15 or 16. Not everyone has that kind of experience. However, Go Banking Rates has a great guide for first-time investors.
Contribute to a 401k
I didn’t directly invest the side income… at least at first. Instead, I used some of the side income to live off of. That allowed me to direct more of my full-time income to a 401k. For many investors, beginning or expert, contributing to a 401k plan is a wise move. If the side gig allows you to contribute a lot at an early age it is a solid path to financial independence.
If my company didn’t have a 401k, which was common with the types of software start-ups I worked for, I could have used that side gig money towards a solo 401k or a SEP-IRA. Eventually, I did start one of each of those accounts because I moved away from that full-time job with the 401k.
Open a Diversified Investment Portfolio
I’ve reached the point where I’m looking beyond 401ks and other retirement investments. Business Insider has a good list of new apps, software, and programs that make it a breeze for novices to start investing in the stock market without needing a lot of money to do so. I personally use and recommend Robinhood. The reason I love it so much is that they don’t charge commissions to buy and sell stock.
This makes it easy to diversify across a number of ETFs or mutual funds. Currently I like to invest 60% in stocks (40% of that in the US and 20% abroad), 30% in bonds, and 10% in real-estate investment trusts (REITs). It’s not going to weather a stock market downturn completely, but it should provide some safety while also offering growth.
I know that side gigs can be a lot of work and it feels like everyone is already overworked nowadays. However, if you can fit in something on the side, it’s amazing what a difference a couple hundred dollars can make here and there.