Sweeten Your Returns With Chocolate Dividends

A UK-based chocolate manufacturer, Hotel Chocolat, has come up with a novel way to raise capital for expansion. Instead of borrowing money from banks or issuing regular corporate debt, it has decided to raise about $7.5 million USD by issuing “chocolate bonds“. Instead of a regular dividend payment (well technically it’s a coupon payment and not a dividend), these bonds will pay dividends in chocolates!


In order to be eligible, you need to be a member of their “Tasting Club”, which already has 100,000 members. For an investment of $2,890 USD or $5,760 USD, you can get a juicy annual dividend of 6.72% or 7.29% delivered to your doorstep every other month.

If you’ve ever been to high-end confectionery, you’ll know they charge a couple of dollars for each piece of candy.  So spending a few thousand quid might not be such a bad investment. Especially since bank yields aren’t very impressive right now. At least it guarantees you won’t have to spring for chocolate for three years, even if the rest of your portfolio tanks!

I wouldn’t be surprised a chain of British gyms are next in line to offer special “weight-loss bonds”, with special dividend rates for people who bought the chocolate bonds!

But the real question is whether Inland Revenue will be accepting their tax payment in chocolate too?

Trading The News: iPhone on the Verizon Network

Last week the internet was buzzing with rumors of Apple coming out with an iPhone that would work on the Verizon Network. If you decide you wanted to trade this rumor what would you do? Would you buy Apple (AAPL) or would you buy Verizon Communications (VZ)? What if I told you Apple didn’t pay a dividend, while Verizon had a 6% dividend yield. Would that make a difference?

As it turns out, I decided I wanted in on this trade. I’ve been wanting to buy an iPhone for a while but the AT&T network is severely congested in major cities and the sound quality for calls is terrible. So I’ve been holding out for the iPhone until it’s available on the Verizon Network.  I did however get myself a 32GB iPod Touch that is simply amazing.

I didn’t buy either of these two companies. Instead I bought Vodafone (VOD) with a dividend yield of approximately 5.3% based on my $23.10 purchase price. It’s not widely known, but Vodafone owns 45% of Verizon Wireless. The remaining 55% of Verizon Wireless is owned by Verizon Communications.

Verizon Wireless borrowed billions of dollars from its parent company to build out its infrastructure and for the $30 billion purchase of Alltel. It’s been generating nearly $10 billion a year in free cashflow and has been paying back the loans. These loans will be completely repaid in a few months. So what will it do with all the money its generating? It’ll start paying dividends to VZ and VOD.

Verizon needs the money for its own dividend payments. In addition to the wireless division, it runs a landline division that isn’t anywhere as profitable as Verizon Wireless. And last week, Vodafone publicly asked Verizon to either spin off Verizon Wireless or to start paying dividends as soon as it was done with the loan repayments.

By itself, Vodafone generates $8 billion a year in free cashflow. It’s 5.3% dividend seems pretty safe and has the potential to see a massive increase if Verizon Wireless decides to pay out a major portion of its cash flows.  In addition to its stake in Verizon Wireless, Vodafone owns a tiny stake in China Mobile and a 44% stake in some French Telecomm company who’s name I can’t pronounce.

This way you get exposure to a global Telecomm player with exposure to the growing US wireless market and no exposure to the US landline market.  You also get a 5%+ dividend yield with exposure outside the the US and the US Dollar. If we do see inflation, this dividend is likely to keep up with it and is probably a better bet than a treasury bond (which would lose value if we saw high inflation).

For the time being, the “Can you hear me now?” dude is a little less annoying!

Disclaimer: I entered a 50% position in VOD. If the price drops from my purchase price I’ll double down.

Best Trade of 2009

Almost exactly a year ago, I mentioned a paired-trade investment between the long-term Bond ETF (TLT) and short-term corporate/sovereign bond ETF (AWF).  I went long AWF and shorted an equal dollar amount of TLT. Last week, I closed the position after holding it for just over a year.

When I entered the trade, AWF was trading for $8.29 and had a yield of 13.4%, while my short position in TLT was trading at $112.10 and had a yield of 3.5%.  When I close out my position a year later, AWF had a price of $13.10 and a yield of 8.6%, while TLT was going for $91.65 and yielding 3.9%.

I made about 63% on the long AWF position and 18% on the short TLT position. Coupled with the 9.9% net dividend yield, that trade made me ~91%. Not a bad return for a year and 4 days.  Bond yields don’t usually move 500 basis points in a year. No point being greedy. Time to bank some profit!


A drop in the stock market will cause the price of bonds to move up, since they typically are inversely correlated. Similarly a sharp rise in in yields would cause bonds price to drop. I expect a move in TLT to about roughly $96 at which point I might renter the position depending on the larger macro-economic picture.

So Long Annaly Capital!

In October 2008 I bought Annaly Capital Management (NLY)  at around $13.  Annaly Capital is a REIT that buys mortgage-backed real estate securities that are essentially guaranteed by the government via GSEs (or government sponsored agencies).

According to Google finance “it owns mortgage pass-through certificates, collateralized mortgage obligations, agency callable debentures, and other securities representing interests in or obligations backed by pools of mortgage loans. The Company is focused in generating net income for distribution to the stockholders from the spread between the interest income on the investment securities and the cost of borrowings to finance the acquisition of investment securities”.

It basically borrrows money and invests it in MBS and CMOs. When the short term borrowing rate is hovering around 2% and mortgage yields are around 5%, the spread is pretty juicy and it can afford to pay out pretty decent dividends.

At the time I bought it, I think it had ~10% dividend yield and it looked like interest rates were going to stay low for quite some time.  The Federal Funds rate which was 1.50% in early October 2008, bottomed out at close to 0% in a few months and has stayed in the 0-0.25% for most of the past year. Since then, the dividends have increased to about 21% based on my purchase price. At its current purchase price, its still yields around 17-18%.  That is still a pretty stellar dividend, especially for a company that’s in the real estate financing sector.

However, if interest rates raise, its spread decreases and it no longer throws off enough cash flow to maintain its dividend yield. Will the rates rise any time soon? I don’t think so, but over the long-term, rates cannot stay this low. The country cannot keep on issuing new debt at 3-4% indefinitely.  At some point, demand for low rate debt will dry up and rates will start creeping up. When this happens, NLY will cut dividends and its stock price will tank.

During the 15 months that I’ve held the stock, it has appreciated 30% and I’ve received ~20% in dividends as well. Not a bad return (though it’s beaten the S&P500, its not my best trade of last year). Many people think that the economy will continue to stay weak, interest rates will stay low, and NLY will continue to do well. Maybe. But I’d rather book some profit and build up some cash reserves in case the market pulls back. I sold 100% of NLY in my brokerage account and 50% of it in my Roth IRA today. With this sale, the retirement account is currently 50% in cash. Its time to go stock hunting!


Investing For Sustainable Dividend Yield

The following is a guest post by Saj Karsan. Saj regularly writes for Barel Karsan, a site dedicated to finding and discussing current value investments.

Stocks with higher dividend yields do outperform the market. Having said that, however, it’s important to be able to determine if a company’s dividend yield is sustainable.

Consider World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE). CEO Vince McMahon’s antics are well known, both in the boardroom and as an entertainer himself! For those unfamiliar with his antics (or those who enjoy re-living WWE moments), a video example of McMahon in action is portrayed below:

WWE pays a dividend yield above 10%. However, the following chart demonstrates why you can’t choose a stock on dividend yield alone:


Clearly, WWE has been paying out more than it has been earning! Over the last four fiscal years (“2006 T” representing an 8-month transition year to a new fiscal year-end), WWE has paid out $1.06 more per share than it has earned!

How does it do it? Balance Sheet strength! The company has virtually no debt, and more than $2.80 of cash (including short-term investments) per share. That means it could continue to pay out cash over and above its net income by 25 cents per share for the next 10 years!

Does that make it a buy? Not quite. At a share price of $14, even if management immediately paid out that entire $2.80 to shareholders, one would still be paying $11.20 for a company that earned 62 cents / share last year, representing a P/E of 18.

When a dividend yield looks appealing, make sure it’s not too good to be true!

Disclosures: None

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to Barel Karsan.

Which Dividend Stocks Are Worth Looking At?

The market has been defying gravity this summer, with the S&P500 up 49% since March. But most of the appreciation has been in what I consider lower quality stocks. Many homebuilders with doubtful prospects have doubled from their recent lows, while stocks that are somewhat recession proof like McDonalds, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble have bounced a mere 15-20%.

According to Bloomberg, “companies with the worst earnings led the 45 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since it fell to a 12-year low five months ago”. It might be a good time to sell some of your winners that have exceptionally well and either wait for a pull-back, or if you’re trigger happy, buy solid investment-grade companies.

Given the current economic environment with the US Dollar likely to devalue against foreign currencies and the high probability of inflation, you want to invest in a company with exposure to foreign markets, a stable business model that is non-cyclical and a history of growing dividends. You also want to avoid luxury brands or businesses that sell expensive goods.

Here are a few of the companies that I would consider looking at, along with their dividend yields.

  • Verizon Communications (VZ): 5.87%
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): 3.21%
  • Procter & Gamble (PG): 3.28%
  • Colgate-Palmolive (CL): 2.41%
  • Unilever (UL): 4.39%
  • Altria Group (MO): 7.10%
  • Philip Morris International (PM): 4.61%
  • McDonalds (MCD): 3.55%
  • Walmart (WMT): 2.51%
  • Enerplus Resources Fund (ERF): 9.56%

While I don’t own any of these yet (except ERF), I do own some ETFs that hedge against dollar devaluation and inflation:

  • CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust (FXA): 2.04%
  • Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Domestic Debt Fund (EDD): 7.45%
  • Market Vectors TR Gold Miners (GDX): 1.90%

If you are going to buy currency ETFs or currencies you might want to also check out some of the risk-free currency CDs offered by Everbank. At the very least, definitely subscribe to their free newsletter, the Daily Pfennig. It’s quite informative and very interesting.

ETFconnect.com is a great site to find out more information about ETFs.  Having some exposure to foreign currency and gold miners isn’t a bad idea. I’ve been worrying about the effects of the Federal Reserve printing money like its going out of style and the CEO of Coeur d’Alene (CDE), a silver mining company that I happen to own, predicts that Silver will jump 29% by the end of the year because of this.

Demand from investors seeking a store of wealth accounts for more than half of silver’s 23 percent price jump this year before today, Wheeler said in an interview in New York. The metal will reach $18 an ounce with supplies little changed and demand buoyed by purchases from exchange-traded funds, he said.

“We have this crushing new debt and dollar weakness,” Wheeler said today. “The outlook for precious metals is very positive, and silver will be No. 1.”

The U.S. government has pledged $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches U.S. gross domestic product, in a bid to stem the longest recession since the 1930s. The spending will erode the value of the dollar and boost the appeal of silver and gold as alternative assets, Wheeler said.

“There’s a lot of anxiety out there over this debt,” Wheeler said. “Around the world, there are a growing number of investors who want protection. They’re going to want silver as part of their portfolio.”

If you believe any of this, you might want to increase your exposure to silver miners like CDE, SSRI or SLW, although these don’t pay any dividends.

Disclosure: I own ERF, CDE, FXA, GDX, EDD, physical gold and silver.

Passive Income Update For August 2008

Finally got some time to add up all the passive income for the month of August. While June was a record breaking month with over $3,300 in passive income, July and August have been pretty lackluster in comparison. July’s income was $2,115.61 and August’s total was hardly any better with $2,134.57.

Maybe I can use the same excuse that government statistians use when talking about the economy and blame on seasonal variations! But the fact is that revenue dropped due to 2 main reasons. I pre-sold annual advertising in June that rightly should have been ammortized over the year (according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Also, since I was busy with my move to Los Angeles, I didn’t really have time to look for advertisers or respond in a timely fashion to those that contacted me.

But the good news is that traffic to the site didn’t drop off, and apart from direct advertisers, revenue that was dependent on traffic remained almost constant. And of course, my dividend income was pretty stable despite the recent large drop in equity prices and the strengthening dollar which caused a 5-8% drop in the value of my foreign dividends.

Here’s the breakdown:

A reader emailed me a few days ago asking what’s the best way to start generating online income. I told him to start blogging about something he was passionate about. That way, he’d be able to keep up his motivation during the initial few months when he probably wouldn’t be making any money. Once he had written a few dozen articles or posts, he should start seeing some search engine traffic. If you’re in a highly competitive niche, you’ll need to make sure you have a lot of other sites linking back to you. Do a search for creating a back-link campaign to find out how to do this.

Once you see search engine traffic you should include ads in your site.  I include ads from Comission Junction, Adsense, Linkworth, Text-Link-Ads, ADSDAQ and Kontera. While individually they aren’t significant amounts, the income is consistent and together it all ads up.

Amazon affiliate income has dropped a lot since the beginning of this year. Not sure if this is seasonal since there are more sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I’ve finally gotten around to adding an affiliate link prominently on the site and I expect this to have a positive effect. How much of a positive effect remains to be seen.

The affiliate income from Ebay has been growing steadily. It’s up nearly 7-fold in the past 5 months. Last month I added a storefront on this website which focuses on business, cheap real estate, gold coins and other income producing ventures and this has already started producing referrals. Some of the other sites are .info sites that I bought for $0.99 from GoDaddy and they were created using BANS. For a little more info on how to generate passive income from sites, look at the 2nd half of this post (look for the section on Niche Sites).

RevResponse did well last month, partly due to a $50 bonus. They basically provide free publications and white papers on various topics ranging from finance and banking to search engine optimization and car detailing. Check out the Free Financial Magazines link. Bloggers might also want to check out the Sales & Marketing articles too. Mature programmers might remember a famous programming magazine called Dr. Dobb’s Journal. Well, it’s available for free too. And the best part is I get paid for providing my readers with free useful information! Yes, you can  money selling magazines! (well, technically you’re giving them away).

A lot of oil and gold stocks have been beaten down recently. My portfolio of Canroys wasn’t spared either, but I’m not going to panic and sell them right now. I’m getting a decent amount of dividends each month and I’m happy to keep on holding them for a while. We’ve seen some pretty bizzare events in the financial markets lately and I’m sure not going to panic after everyone else already has (the time to panic is before everyone else!).

Anyway, its time to wind up this post. I have the last 6 hours of Math camp tomorrow! It’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be!

Monthly Passive Income Finally Breaks $3,000 Barrier!

A few of my readers have emailed me asking when I’m going to post the Passive Income numbers for June. Apologies for the delay; I’m going to be starting my full-time MBA at UCLA pretty soon and I’ve had to look for apartments in Los Angeles so I’ve been pretty busy since the beginning of this month.

As reported earlier, April was a been a record breaking month for me with total “passive” income amounting to $2,811.42. I haven’t posted May’s break-down but it was a lot lower at $2,330.00.

However, June’s income has broken all previous records and was a whopping $3,354.51! I’ve finally attained my goal of $3,000/month in passive (or semi-passive) income. Let’s hope I can maintain it!

This is a strong 19.6% jump against my previous monthly high in April. Since I’ve been neglecting my sites this month, I expect July income to again drop significantly. But the number of sites that I’ve created is increasing every month, so hopefully it’ll all balance out eventually.

Here’s the breakdown:

The biggest jump in income came from direct advertisements and from the oil drilling programs. I expect both to dip next month.

Adsense, Linkworth, Text-Link-Ads, ADSDAQ and Kontera have been consistent earners for me. It really isn’t a lot of income but its consistent and together it all ads up.

Amazon affiliate income hasn’t really taken off and to be honest I haven’t really been doing anything to boost it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to devote more time to this.

The affiliate income from Ebay has been growing steadily. My Discount iPod-iPhone and Gold Coin Store have started seeing some traffic. These sites are .info sites that I bought for $0.99 from GoDaddy and it was created using BANS. For a little more info on how to generate passive income from sites, look at the 2nd half of this post.

In March, I made $60 from Domain Embarking, a site that helps you earn money from parked domains. Since they only pay out quarterly, I was supposed to get a payment in the end of June, but they got booted from the Google Adsense program (for unknown reasons) and suspended all payments until end of September. Apparently I’ve made another $63.15 with them, but until I see the next payment, I’m ignoring it. Until then, I’ll continue to use their services as its a great way to create automated content, traffic and boost page ranking. Members can now place their own adsense or affiliate ads on the pages of sites parked with Domain Embarking. Make sure you at least put up your affiliate ads.

I’m not sure if Prosper is still handing out $25 signup bonuses to new lenders and but I do know that the referral program is changing. I may no longer get any money from referrals, so thats one income stream that is likely to dry up. But I’ll still keep investing through the site. Here’s a good post on How Not To Bid On Prosper.

To help make up for Prosper’s anticipated drop, a new program RevResponse has been added. They basically provide free publications and white papers on various topics ranging from finance and banking to search engine optimization and car detailing. Check out the Free Financial Magazines link. Bloggers might also want to check out the Sales & Marketing articles too. Old School programmers might remember Dr. Dobb’s Journal. Well, it’s available for free too. And the best part is I get paid for providing my readers with free useful information! So if you’ve ever wondered if you can make money selling magazines, here’s your chance to find out without getting off out of your chair. They’re also paying $50 for writing a 200 word post about them this month, so you should definitely join immediately if you’re a blogger.

I also made around $1,099 from some oil investments and other dividends. Some of the stocks pay over 10% in annual dividends. In the past 2 weeks the market has taken a beating and there are a lot of stellar companies paying over 4% annual yield. Some of them are Verizon(VZ), General Electric (GE) and Pfizer (PFE). Even stocks like McDonalds (MCD) are yielding 2.6% which is more than you get in your savings account!

Last month I bought a few more domains like Hobby Rubber Stamps and Invasion TV from GoDaddy. GoDaddy currently has a promotion – .com domain purchases for only $6.99 and .info domains for only 99 cents. I’ll try a few ways to monetize these domains over the next few months and hopefully they’ll add to my passive income as well.

I have multiple streams of both online & offline income. As I’ve mentioned before, having small amounts of income from various companies provides diversity and risk management. Occasionally, one of them will drop off (like adsense went from $400 a month to $150), and not being too concentrated in it prevents your passive income totally disappearing.

I’ll end with a quote from last months post:

Having any sort side income that sufficiently large to allow you to pay the rent and put food on the top is a great stress reliever. It also provides you F*** YOU money, in case you don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss or you feel that your job is sucking the life out of you! For stubborn and opinionated people, having F-U money is awesome!

I hope I’ve inspired all of you to try and boost your passive income or maybe add new sources to increase your current income streams. Please let me know how you’re all doing.

$2,811 In Passive Income For April 2008

I was so busy in May that I completely forgot to post April’s passive income summary. On the bright side, April was a been a record breaking month for me with total “passive” income amounting to $2,811.42. On the flip side, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been paying attention to my sites and May’s income will probably be lower.

If you recall, the income for March 2008 was $2, 667.18, so this is $144 jump is a 5.4% increase. However, one of my stocks is a Japanese REIT, and it paid out a quarterly dividend amounting to about $230, so the $140 increase isn’t a real increase – it’s going to disappear for May. Besides, the jump from February to March’s passive income was 11.9%, so this isn’t as good. (In case your wondering why I’ve invested in a Japanese REIT, here’s a good posts on why Japan’s real estate is a good investment.)

But so long as I can sustain it over $2,500 per month, I’ll be happy. Especially since I’m going to pursue my MBA full-time and I won’t be able to work.

Here’s the breakdown:

A new addition this month is the affiliate income I made from Ebay. In the past I’ve bought A LOT of gold coins on ebay. Since most of the gold coins are of a specific type, and I like to automate repetitive tasks, I used to have searches emailed to me on a regular basis. However, since I also like to try and monetize everything, I decided to set up a store to serve as both a place to aggregate my favorite searches and generate some affiliate income. Here’s my gold coin site, aptly called French Gold Coins. Check out the coins under the Recommended list – these are my favorite coins. The site is a .info site that I bought for $0.99 from GoDaddy and it was created using BANS. For a little more info, look at the 2nd half of this post. I also set up a site to aggregate news pertinent to Gold and Gold Coins, as another example of how to automate repetitive tasks.

Last month I mentioned that my Adsense revenue was dropping since I was being smart-priced. In an attempt to prevent that I modified the way Adsense shows up on the site – only search engine traffic sees Adsense now. Other traffic gets shown ADSAQ ads, which is helping compensate for Adsense’s lost revenue. February’s Adsense income was over $400 and has been dropping ever since. But I think I’ve figured out the issues and expect it to be pretty much constant at this level, or maybe slightly higher.

On the other hand, Linkworth has done really well on my sites. March’s income was almost double of February’s and as expected, April’s income was even higher. I’m very happy with their service and I strongly endorse it. It’s a good addition to Adsense, since it doesn’t conflict with their TOS (terms of service) and its always a good idea to have multiple streams of income. Incidentally, the only decent book EVER written by Robert G. Allen is Multiple Streams of Income: How to Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth!. All of his other books are crap, but surprisingly, this is one of my favorites!

Text-Link-Ads is also doing moderately okay although its taking more time than Linkworth. I think you may not allowed to use both of them on the same site, so see which one works better for you. Between the two, my favorite is currently Linkworth, for the obvious reason that it’s generating more revenue for me. 😀

Amazon affiliate income has started to pick up and hopefully it will continue as I learn more about affiliate marketing and try out different techniques to boost it.

In March, I made $60 from Domain Embarking, a site that helps you earn money from parked domains. Since they only pay out quarterly, I didn’t make squat from them, but I’ve added a couple more sites and have had a couple of people sign up using the affiliate link so I expect to make a little bit more in the next cycle. I expect to make more than enough money to pay for the registration fees and my hosting for all my sites through the income generated through Domain Embarking.

Prosper is still handing out $25 signup bonuses to new lenders and that program generated $175 in April. My total proper account value is now $2995 of which $800 is cash. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to invest that amount. I have my own criteria for investing in loans and it usually narrows my universe of investment-grade loans to under 20 at any given time. Of that half will ask loans for real estate projects which I don’t do and eventually they’re only 3 borrowers who I’ll think are worthy of lending money to. Here’s a good post on How Not To Bid On Prosper.

I also made around $1,151 from some oil investments and other dividends. Some of the stocks pay over 10% in annual dividends. Two of the oil investments are paying 15-18%. The third oil investment is currently barely producing, but that seems like it will improve over the next few months and boost that portion of my income too. Also, as the price of oil stays around $100 per barrel, the monthly payout (which is typically delayed by 3 months) will increase a little bit.

I also made about $128 in interest from savings and CDs. My gut feeling is that the Federal Reserve will probably keep the interest rates steady for the rest of the summer. However, even if they do drop the rates (I don’t think we’re going to see a rate hike for a year or two) it won’t make a very significant difference in my income. And I’ll probably be spending that money while I’m in college so I don’t have any expectations from it anyway.

I have some minimal expenses for domains and hosting. I pay about $119.40 for annual hosting on Dream Host. I had several periods of downtime last month and they did credit my account with an extra month. I like that they have one click installation for wordpress, php forum software, mysql databases and other stuff. I’ve used GoDaddy in the past and I didn’t like their interface at all, although I have heard it has improved. Dream Host is a lot easier to use in my opinion. If you use coupon code “PassiveIncome” you’ll get $19.40 off the annual fee or you can use “Dividends” to get free domain registration. I also pay around $60 for domain registrations which I usually register with 1 and 1. At $6.99, they’re pretty cheap. However I did go and register a bunch of domains for 99 cents so next year I’ll probably be paying close to $175. On a monthly basis, these costs will work out to roughly $25 (or they will once the domains go full price). GoDaddy currently has a promotion – .com domain transfers for only $6.99 and .info domains for only 99 cents.

As you can see, I have multiple streams of both online & offline income. My online income is generated from 10 different companies. The other income is produced from the dividends of about 10 different stocks and 3 oil investments. Having diversity is very important. Periodically, one of them will taper off (like adsense did), and not being too concentrated in it prevents your passive income totally disappearing.

Having any sort side income that sufficiently large to allow you to pay the rent and put food on the top is a great stress reliever. It also provides you F*** YOU money, in case you don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss or you feel that your job is sucking the life out of you! For stubborn and opinionated people, having F-U money is awesome!

I hope I’ve inspired all of you to try and boost your passive income or maybe add new sources to increase your current income streams.

Please let me know how you’re all doing.

How Passive Is Your Passive Income?

I’ve been lumping in my online income with my passive income, but it isn’t really passive. It may not be very strenuous and it gives me geographic flexibility and I don’t have to show up for work every day, but there is some effort involved. Unfortunately I’m not as clever as Courtney Tuttle, who says he has a site that makes $3,500/month with no ongoing maintance. (If you’d like to buy an existing site that generates income, check out the online businesses for sale on my business & investment store). I’ve just had some limited success with Domain Parking, buts that the extent of my truly passive online income.

Simply put, my online income isn’t really passive. It’s a lot more passive than the website and seo consulting work I do by a huge margin, but its not as passive as dividneds or royalty checks.

So what are the best ways to earn really Passive Income?

1. High Dividend Stocks
There are a lot of stocks that paying quarterly or yearly dividends. Over time, the power of compounding (with a little help from inflation) can substantially increase the value of your dividends. My mother bought the Indian subsidiary of Unilever (Ticker: UL) called Hindustan Lever about 20 years ago. She’s being reinvesting most of her dividends and today her annual dividends are larger than the value of the original stock purchase. American Capital Strategies (ticker: ACAS) has been growing its dividends approximately 10% every year. According to The Dividend Investor,

If we invested $100,000 in ACAS on December 31, 1997 we would have bought 6906 shares. Your first quarterly check would have been $1,726.50 in March 1998. If you kept reinvesting the dividends though instead of spending them, your quarterly dividend payment would have risen to $17,095 by December 2007. For a period of 10 years, the quarterly dividend has increased by 300 %. If you reinvested it though, your quarterly dividend income would have increased by 890%.

Yes, reinvesting the dividends in companies that have historically kept increasing their dividends is key. Even though you might get only 2.5% return today, eventually with the increase in stock price and rise in dividends, your annual return should be greater than 12%. This concept is very well explained in Prof. Jeremy Siegel’s excellent book, The Future for Investors, which I highly recommend.

2. Oil & Gas Royalties

While there is a lot of fraud and speculation in direct oil drilling programs, they can be very, very lucrative for investors. Charlie Munger invested about a $1,000 in such an oil drilling program in the 60s and he’s estimated that its paid out over $500,000 in royalty payments since then. Apparently it still pays out $2,000 a month. Of course, most people NEVER see these sort of returns, but for the average person, investing in Canadian Oil & Gas Royalty Funds (or Income Trusts) is the next best thing. I’ve invested quite a bit of money into both the direct oil wells and the Canadian Income Trusts (or Canroys) and the overall result has been pretty positive in both (which is in excess of 12%).

3. Royalties on Books and Patents

Royalties on Books and Intellectual Property Rights can be even more lucrative. However writing a best-selling book or creating a something thats worth patenting can extremely time consuming and expensive. For most authors and inventors, its a labor of love – something that they would pursue even if there was no monetary reward to it. But many ebook writers who sell get-rich-quick books about “making money online” are getting very wealthy. Most of these books are garbage and the only people getting rich are their authors and resellers. Not a very ethical way to make money.

4. Rental Income on Properties Bought at the Bottom of a Real Estate Cycle.

If you bought rental buy and hold property in California, Nevada, Arizona or Florida during 2005 and 2007, my heart goes out to you. A lot of smart people got suckered into buying at the top of the market and are paying for it. However, if you buy correctly, preferably at the bottom of a real estate cycle, real estate can provide excellent passive income and fantastic tax advantages as well. According to Charlie Munger at the 2008 Wesco Financial Annual Shareholder meeting, “most real estate investors don’t pay any income tax, except once every 20 years or so“. Bought correctly (that is based on value, not speculation), rental properties can provide a steady stream of cashflow that is somewhat inflation-indexed. I say somewhat, because in the short-term anything can happen, but over a long period of time, real estate is going to match the rate of inflation.

5. Investing In Timber

Similar to Canroys, there are companies that grow trees specifically for timber and pay pretty decent dividends. There are also direct tree-planting programs where you can invest a minimum of $5,000 and own a portion of a timber operation. The company does all the work for you and supposedly cuts you a check once a year after a specific time interval. The endowment funds of Harvard and Yale have apparently been investing in timber for several years now with great returns.

6. Domain Parking (or Embarking)

There are many people who buy and hold hundreds of domains (I know a guy who owns 750). They either park them with Sedo or another domain-parking service. These services stick relevant (and sometimes not-so-relevant) ads on your site. The idea is that if someone comes to the site through browser type-in traffic and clicks on an ad, you get paid a portion of this ad revenue. I had hosted several sites with Sedo and made a whopping 2 cents per month. I’ve recently been trying out a new service called Domain Embarking that is working pretty well for me.