Investors spend most of their lives concentrating on investing for growth vs investing for income. The way to generate more income from investments, then, is to simply shift your overall objective from growth to income.
Here are 44 ways to get more income from your investments ranging from stock dividends to alternative income investments, such as covered calls and angel investing, inviting you to think beyond just stocks and bonds.
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Passive Income Investment Ideas
As you can see, these investment income strategies aren’t just your usual retirement income opportunities that are based only on investments or retirement programs. You can easily find lots of articles online with the usual mainstream retirement income ideas, such as annuities, pensions, social security, and retirement withdrawal strategies. (Click here to read my article Retirement Withdrawal Strategies – Do They Really Work? )
This post covers begins with a few common investment income strategies, but it quickly gets more adventuresome venturing into real estate and small business investing.
In late midlife, we were challenged to get more income from our investments in stocks and bonds, as I have written about here. First, there were (and still are) low interest rates and dividend yields that hindered investment income.
Second, income from investments was limited to the amount of savings we had accumulated. As a result, we found it necessary to shift toward more alternative investments, eventually creating multiple streams of income. Click here to read my article Interest Off 1 Million.
After getting a few sources of passive income set up from investments, we ventured into creating our own online businesses, because they provide big upside with no capital risk. I’ll share similar low capital, high income potential strategies in another post.
In this post, I’ll focus on investment income strategies that require high levels of capital, but not much work, or mostly passive income.
Many of the investment income ideas you’ll find here we have implemented ourselves. These are marked with an *. I realized as I wrote this article that I have implemented half of these 44 strategies myself and have more on my bucket list. Check back, as I’ll keep you posted.
Begin with What You Want
As you read, make a list of the income ideas that call out to you based on your own situation. Consider your skills, amount of investment capital and lifestyle. Ask yourself what you want. Repeat: Ask yourself what you want.
For example, does the idea of researching dividend paying stocks sound terrible while the idea of managing some type of rental property appeal to you? Or does the idea of active investing appeal to you more than investing in someone else’s business?
As you read through the ways to get more income from investments, see what appeals to you. The reality is that we get better results when we are doing something we enjoy.
What you need to do is important, but when you marry what you want to do with what you need to do with what you enjoy doing, you lay the foundation for success.
Low Risk Income Investments
The key to getting more income from investments is understanding the risk reward equation. It’s easy to find investments that pay high income of 10% to 15%. The problem is that they usually have higher risk.
Like all investments, income investments swing up and down in value, sometimes 50% or more. This is true for stocks, bonds and, even some real estate when bought near the top of the real estate cycle.
You don’t experience a “realized” loss unless you sell the investment for less than you paid for it. The decrease in value is considered an “unrealized” loss if the value goes down while you own it. But, the drop in value of investments is accompanied by a drop in the value of your net worth. This is particularly unsettling for people over 50 who don’t have time to build wealth long term.
The opposite is true, of course, for increases in the value of investments. Investments paying more income than other similar types of investments are riskier. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t need to pay more income to attract investors. There are times, however, when you can buy income investments at the right time in the cycle so that they have a high probability of increasing in value.
In summary, the higher the income, generally, the higher the risk of the value of the investments falling.
How to Lower Investment Risk
Not to be a naysayer, but the last thing you want is for your net worth to pummel in value within a couple of years before or after retirement because you’re stretching for that extra 2% of income. Since low risk becomes more important as you age, I must point out that many of these income investing strategies below are subject to risk from stock, bonds and real estate market declines.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest, it means that I feel an obligation to point out potential risk on this blog, not pretend it doesn’t exist so I can be a popular financial blogger. I’ve lived through too many bear markets to not use strong risk management strategies.
Here are 7 ways you can lower investment risk.
- Diversify among different types of investments that usually move in opposite directions, such as stocks and Treasury bonds.
- Broadly diversify among income investments such as stocks, real estate or small business, not just stocks and bonds.
- Buy some income investments that tend to perform well in bear markets and recessions.
- Diversify both income sources and investments.
- Consider raising cash levels during high valuations in stocks.
- Hedge against inflation with some of your income investments.
- Be aware that real estate values often decline during bear markets along with the value of stocks for several reasons.
Now that I’ve addressed lowering investment risk, let’s explore how to get more income from your investments.
Multiple Income Streams
Consider creating more than one income stream. Once established, many alternative income streams can be leveraged through outsourcing much of the work or even management. This can allow you to focus on another retirement income opportunity.
This diversified strategy has allowed us to diversify among several different types of both wealth building and income opportunities.
Click the video below to watch or stop the video on why we created multiple income streams.
5 Reasons We Created Multiple Streams of Income
Different Types of Investment Alternatives
Most types of investment income takes a lot of capital to generate a meaningful amount of income. For example, stock dividends require a lot of capital. Different types of investments can require less capital, however.
The three main income investment categories in this article are listed below.
The income potential and the associated risk is also noted in each category below. Note that I made a basic assumption in categorizing the risk levels that the investor responsibly researched and invested any income stream endeavors beforehand, and also used typical risk profile investments in that category. For example, stock investing can have very high risk, as opposed to low to medium risk, when investing in penny stocks, or not diversifying your portfolio. Also, any investment that has not been properly researched and fully understood is higher risk.
The investment income ideas here are broken out into the three major categories:
- Income from Investments in Stocks and Bonds – High Capital Needed with Low Income Potential and Low to Medium Risk
- Income from Investments in Real Estate – High to Low Capital Needed with Limited Income Potential with Low to Medium Risk
- Income Investments in Small Business – High Capital Needed with High Income Potential and Medium to High Risk
The Easiest Way to Get More Investment Income
You may want to begin with the most passive investment income streams. The income ideas in this category range from more traditional strategies, such as high dividend stocks, to more alternative income methods, such as selling covered calls.
You may already have investment income from stocks and bonds. Since investing income requires little work, you can add another income stream once you’ve made sure you all set with passive income from stocks or bonds if you already have them and you’re ready to focus on income generation.
Then you may choose to add even another income stream category once you get the second income stream established. On the other hand, you may find that investment income and one more passive income stream suits you perfectly.
We created alternative income streams gradually over the years as opportunities came along in investing, real estate and online businesses but we began with income streams from money market, stocks and bonds many years ago.
How to Get More Income from Investments
Again, investors spend most of their lives focused on investing for growth vs investing for income based on mainstream phases for wealth accumulation leading to retirement.
The way to generate more income from investments, then, is to shift your overall objective from growth to income. Growth means the value of your investments increases over time. The income objective means you primarily want income from your investments because you’re ready to live off investments. You can click here to read my article How to Live Off Investments.
Note that high net worth investors may still want to focus at least some of their portfolio on growth vs income investments since they may not need all the income generated from their investments. This will depend on individual factors such as net worth, spending and financial goals.
With some research and exploration into slightly alternative investments, most investors can increase their investment income once income (vs. growth or capital gains) becomes their primary objective.
Investment Income Risks
It’s hard for me to write about investment income opportunities without some warnings about the importance of truly understanding what you’re investing in.
- Research thoroughly before making any investment
- Define the level of risk you’re willing to experience and stay within it
- Always understand the risks of any investment you make
- Be aware of cycles, or better still, take advantage of cycles to buy income investments at lower valuations
Never lose sight of the fact that your net worth can and will rise and fall based on most of the income generating investments listed below. This is one reason more alternative income streams make so much sense as part of an overall wealth plan; they balance out your risk.
How to Get Income from Stocks and Bonds
High Dividend Stocks for Income*
Most investors are invested in index funds only, such as an S&P 500 index fund, or they are invested in a large group of stocks that mimic the S&P 500 index. Such investments are geared toward growth investing vs. income investing.
A stock investor may choose to simply shift from S&P or large company growth stocks to dividend paying stocks.
Investing in dividend stocks can be an excellent passive income source for an investor with a large amount of investment capital.
Investing in dividend stocks individually, however, can take a lot of research time. Once selected, dividends stocks will need to be monitored. For example, you’ll want to stay current on news about the companies you own, the related industry and overall stock market cycles.
♦ Investment Income Tip – While your net worth will fluctuate in value during stock market cycles, dividend stocks tend to drop slightly less than the overall stock market since many investors continue to own them for high paying dividends.
Hire a Financial Advisor *
Some financial advisors specialize in high dividend stocks. For example, one long term financial advisor I read about in Barron’s gets about 5% dividend income for her clients with a goal of another 3% in growth. This income strategy serving retirees is the focus of her financial advisory practice.
Income from Treasury Bonds*
You can earn income from bonds through the interest that bonds pay bondholders. Owning individual bonds can be harder than owning individual stocks, but it can be done.
The problem with income from bonds is that the value of intermediate to long-term bonds goes down when interest rates rise. Long-term bonds pay higher interest rates than short-term bonds, which is a benefit.
Unfortunately, that benefit is offset by the fact that long-term bonds drop in value more than shorter-term bonds when interest rates rise.
While most people buy bonds for safety, the value of your bonds, and thus, your net worth drop will drop if there is an increase in interest rates, which can be unsettling. You’ll probably still get the income, but it’s painful to see that drop in your net worth. Plus, it’s no fun to own bonds with an interest rate lower than what’s available elsewhere.
♦ Investment Income Tip – When you pay a bank interest, you’re giving them an income stream but when you get paid for the use of your money, you’re creating an income stream.
High Yielding Bond Funds*
Mutual funds that specialize in junk bonds pay higher income since the bonds they hold have higher risk. There are both high yielding mutual funds and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). You’ll want to check out both if you’re interested in lower fees.
♦ Investment Income Tip – By lowering the cost of the bond fund you choose, you get to keep more of the income.
Global Bond Funds*
Global bond funds can add a little more diversification to your portfolio. By investing in bonds with higher interest rates, you can often add another 1% or more to your income.
Global bond funds typically invest in both U.S. and other developed country bonds. This gives the portfolio manager the freedom to invest in countries with higher interest rates within limits.
Emerging Market Bond Funds*
Emerging markets are less developed countries. As you might guess, they typically have higher risk than more developed countries. For this reason, they often generate higher income. Examples of emerging markets are the Philippines, Brazil and Morocco.
Municipal bond funds invest in bonds that are issued by municipalities, states, counties or special purposes. They are federal tax exempt, and may be exempt from state taxes. Municipal bonds can be purchased individually or through mutual funds.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Check to make sure municipal bonds enhance your overall wealth plan since everyone does not need tax benefits that warrant investing in municipal bonds, especially in retirement.
Stock Mutual Funds That Pay Dividends*
Some stock mutual funds and ETFs are focused on income. Such funds often invest in higher dividend paying stocks other than the huge companies that are found in the most common index funds. This may include contrarian stock funds which hold unpopular stocks, under valued stocks or stocks in certain sectors that pay higher dividends at any given time.
Some income focused stock funds pay their shareholders a portion of capital gains instead of, or in addition to, dividend income. Find out exactly what makes up the income you are getting by asking or researching online.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Think broad by comparing the cost of investing in stocks for income vs investing in more alternative assets for income, such as real estate or even a website.
Preferred Stock Dividends*
If you are interested in lowering investment risk, preferred stocks provide way to do that. This is because preferred shareholders get their dividends before common stock shareholders in the event that the issuing company gets into financial trouble.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, once again, since you do give up some of the upside capital gain potential that common shareholders may get. This goes back to knowing your primary investing goals.
You don’t have to do all the research. There are funds and wealth managers that specialize in preferred shares.
Convertible shares are a type of preferred shares, which are like bonds when issued in that they provide funding for the issuing company.
As the name implies, convertible shares have an option for the shareholder to convert their shares into common stocks. This allows an investor to get the income from the convertible stock, equating to less risk than the common stock. It also allows the shareholder to convert their shares into common stock should the shareholder decide to participate in the potential upside of the common shares.
This means the shareholder gets dividends that come before the common shareholders, and they also get funds returned before common shareholders should the company go broke.
Again, you don’t have to do all the research to find quality convertible shares since there are funds that specialize in preferred shares.
Discounted Closed-End Funds*
Closed end funds are a special type of fund. These funds issue a limited number of shares. They can be bought and sold in the market throughout the trading day just like stocks. Closed end funds usually sell for more or less than the value of the companies the fund owns. Closed end funds exist for both stocks and bonds.
Often, you can buy a closed end fund at a 10% to 15% discount to the value of the fund holdings. Plus, you can frequently get higher income from closed-end funds than you can from more traditional mutual funds, especially after commissions are considered.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Many closed-end funds are near duplicates of funds with the exact same manager but without high commissions.
Funds That Sell Options for Higher Income*
Many mutual funds and ETFs sell stock options to increase the income they can pay out to the fund holders. A simple out of the money covered call strategy is commonly used for this type of income generation.
Sell Covered Calls on Stocks You Own*
Investors can sell call options against stocks they already own anyway. As in the example above, this is referred to as writing covered calls. Covered calls can generate significant income streams from stocks without a lot of effort. It’s important to remember that simple covered calls work best when the stock market is rising. This is why I emphasize that if you own stocks already anyway, selling covered calls may make sense for you.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Covered calls can be sold in IRAs.
DIY Dividend Investing*
There are numerous high dividend strategies that have been developed by both financial advisors and long time investors. As I share with my financial coaching clients, many of these strategies are available at a reasonable cost through the internet, and they are simple to implement through your brokerage firm at a very low cost.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Like all investments, the key is to understand what you’re investing in, overall market cycles, and risk in relation to your overall wealth plan.
Invest in MLPs*
Master Limited Partnerships, or MLPs, are a way for investors to own a tiny portion of an oil trust. MLPs tend to pay higher income than stock dividends. They can be bought and sold just like stocks in the stock market.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Midstream MLPs are less sensitive to oil cycles than other types of MLPs.
Invest in Oil and Gas Limited Partnerships*
Oil and gas partnerships can be an excellent alternative income strategy. Like many of the income methods in the investment income category, their value can be subject to market cycles. With oil and gas LPs, investors expect to get income from oil or gas extracted from drilling.
Money Market Income*
Interest on money market accounts has been paltry for such a long time, it’s easy to ignore. Not long ago, however, I spent a couple of hours researching for the best money market interest we could get. It turns out that it was time well spent. After all, another .005% of income on a money market account requires no work beyond the initial research.
When the stock market get overvalued and investors raise their cash levels, money market income naturally becomes more significant.
When researching money interest, remember to look beyond the interest rate. You’re interested in getting the highest interest on your money after any type of fees (and taxes). A money market account paying 2% interest with .75% fees is worse than a money market paying 1.8% with .3% fees. It just doesn’t look like it upon first glance.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Become intimate with your investments so they’ll comfort you when you need them the most.
How to Get More Income from Investments in Real Estate
If you’re looking for alternative income streams for retirement, here are some ideas related to real estate investing. Real estate can be an excellent way to lower your investment risk by hedging against inflation.
Real Estate Ownership*
Owning rental real estate outright can provide an excellent alternative income stream. There are often tax benefits to real estate, so investors can lower the expense side of the cash flow equation, too. Not only this but when timed well with market cycles, the value of real estate can increase in value.
Like the other forms of investment income streams, net worth can also decline if the value of rental properties declines in value.
Lease Out Short Term Furnished Corporate Rental Units
When we lived overseas, I rented town homes by the week from mom and pop operators when we came to the U.S. The rent received from corporate short-term rentals can be significantly more than longer-term rentals since the tenant turnover can be several times a month.
While there is more work involved to make ready and manage the rental units, there tend to be repeat-tenants. Cater to corporations with the business amenities.
Residual Income Options for Short Term Rentals
Landlords can get higher rents by catering to the affluent with luxury add-on items. Kitchens can be stocked with local gourmet products. Tours, meals and other residual income Options can be offered to short-term tenants to generate higher income.
Loan Money for Real Estate
Instead of borrowing money to buy real estate, you can lend money to others to buy real estate. You are the bank, in essence, which is pretty cool. This income strategy can work well for investors with plenty of capital.
Securing the first lien on the property reduces risk. You get ownership of the property if payments aren’t made. Not only this, but you get to keep the income you made during the time your loan was being repaid. For this reason, often times, you are winning even when things go wrong, creating a rare and lucrative situation.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Since you could end up owning the property in the event of default, make sure you lend only on properties you would want to own.
This classic investment income opportunity occurs when property owners don’t pay their property taxes. A lien gets placed on the property by the municipality or town. The liens get auctioned off to pay the taxes. The lien purchaser (investor) can then collect steep interest from the homeowner. If the property owner can’t pay, the lien investor can foreclose on the property.
This seems like a lot of work, but maybe that’s because I haven’t done tax lien investing yet. As of now, we prefer more passive investments. I would see this as an income investment that takes a good deal of effort, at least until you master the strategy to the point where you can delegate some of the work involved.
Rent through Airbnb
This alternative income strategy has recently become very popular with the millennial’s and many retirees, and for good reason. It can be ideal for empty nesters who still have an extra wing in their home or who enjoy interacting with travelers.
Rent Out a Dwelling on Your Property
Are you without room to rent but have an extra yard? Consider adding a tiny house or Air stream trailer to your property. Not only can you lease it out, it can serve as guest quarters occasionally.
Invest in REITs*
Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, provide investors a way to buy real estate through the stock market without having to own individual properties. REITs generally pay higher income than stock dividends with tax benefits.
♦ Investment Income Tip – REIT tax rules changed in 2018 so be sure to check with your CPA.
Rent Your Home or Second Home On VRBO
If you are away from home for weeks at a time you may want to rent your home. This strategy can work especially well in areas with special events. For example, during the SXSW and Austin City Limits music festivals, Austin rents soar. Many Austinites leave town to collect the rental income.
This strategy doesn’t work only in cities. For decades residents in my hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi would rent their homes out when the furniture market came to town twice a year.
Rent A Second Home
Second homes can generate income streams from short-term vacation rentals. This can significantly defray the cost of owning a vacation rental.
I haven’t done this one yet but it’s my newest income stream idea. We have been discussing moving to a small ranch outside of Austin. Many of the properties I have seen come with horse facilities. Since horse boarding near Austin can cost over $1000 per month, this is an area I might explore further, especially since we both love horses but don’t want to own any now.
Buy an RV Park
RV parks can be an generate excellent investment income from what I have seen. Not only this but since they can be in or near urban areas, the value of the land can be an excellent wealth building strategy. The RV model easily lends itself to outsourcing management since a manager can live rent free on the property. Owning an RV park is also on my bucket list.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Seek investment income strategies that pay income while also building wealth.
Lend Money for Real Estate Online
Online real estate lending has become popular in recent years. We have not yet pursued this alternative income strategy but would consider it during times of lower real estate valuations because of the passive income, professional property screening and diversification it offers.
Start a Farm
Many retirees and billionaires start farms as side businesses. Here is a Forbes article about how the rich have used farm and harvesting endeavors to their advantage. As you can see, there are some nice tax angles with farming and ranching. Plus, you may just enjoy the farming lifestyle.
Rent Urban Land to Retailers*
Raw urban land can be rented in a variety of ways, depending on its’ location. We lucked upon a granite business that needed to showcase and sell granite on land we owned. The land provided frontage on a busy highway on the edge of Austin. We owe this income stream to our partner’s business acumen.
If you own raw land, explore income options.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Partnerships can be good, bad or in between, so proceed with caution.
Rent Rural Land
Rural land can be leased in various ways for investment income. RV storage or recreational type businesses such as driving ranges, paint ball and shooting ranges are all possibilities. The risk will, of course, need to be well covered with liability insurance.
Fourplexes can make a lot of sense for rental properties for three reasons.
First, you can own multiple housing complexes in one location without needing commercial lending.
Second, you can leverage your property management team. At our fourplex outside of Austin, for example, I am able to use the same maintenance people for every unit. Plus, I deal with one septic system, one water company, one mowing service, one leasing agent and one electric company for all four doors.
Third, you get four income units through one property search and one property purchase.
Fourth, you get four times the income for maybe 50% of the effort that you’d make for four individual dwellings.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Leverage your time and money whenever you can to magnify your income without more effort.
Selling timber is another passive income stream idea on my bucket list, maybe due to the Mississippi in me. Here is a good article if you’re interested in exploring this alternative income idea that’s been around for centuries.
We stumbled on this investment income strategy as a result of owning property on a highway outside of Austin. Easements can be given for advertising, property access or even drilling.
Storage buildings are easy to maintain and cost little to build. Land that is outside of a city can be ideal for building and renting long term storage to businesses for almost completely passive income.
How to Get More Income from Investments in Small Business
Angel investing is the term that was used for early stage small business investing before it became in vogue. Much like the sharks do on Shark Tank, you can use your investment capital to fund a small business that needs funding. Often, deals like this include some form of debt structuring that pays interest to the investor before profit sharing kicks in. Since small business failure is extremely high, this is a high-risk investment.
♦ Investment Income Tip – The rule of thumb to reduce risk through diversification is to invest in ten different small businesses.
Income from Small Business Investing as a Partner*
You may find the ideal partner for a small business. This person may have the skills you lack, and you may have the funding. Funding counts for a lot in a partnership and can mean less work on your part since you’re supplying the funding.
The negative is that it could be months or years before you get income from this partnership unless you are paid interest on your investment. The good thing is that if the business does succeed, you may end up with a marketable asset which you can sell.
Private Small Business Lending Online*
There are many websites now that allows you to lend money to small business and startups. Many of these lending companies are tied to a social cause, such as lending to women specifically, or microloans in developing countries.
In the past, early stage small business investing was limited to accredited investors. Now, anyone can participate in this potential income investment.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Be aware that most small business profits are affected by overall economic growth cycles.
Increase Income from Buying an Online Business
If you have an existing business of any type, you can often increase your existing income stream or add a new income stream entirely by purchasing an existing website or online business.
An example of this could be a CPA firm specializing in a small business that purchases a small business development blog. Since the blog already has a following of potential customers through its readers, the CPA firm can easily access a larger base. This type of expansion can even allow local business to expand nationally, or globally.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Expedite reaching your retirement income goal by purchasing an asset that already generates passive income.
Buy A Passive Income Blog and Improve It
If you’re interested in starting an online business and want to expedite the development time, you may want to buy an existing website or blog. Blogs tend to have a lot of content, and many have existed long enough for Google to send traffic to sooner than new websites. Blogs often sell for cheap, especially if they are generating little or no income, and they’re easy to improve and manage.
♦ Investment Income Tip – When buying a blog, you’re paying for the website structure, longevity, content and or followers.
Buy A Brick and Mortar Business
If you prefer local over the online business model, you may want to consider buying an existing business. Many retirees miss the daily interaction with others making this a good fit since managing a local business can be a fast solution.
If you are considering a brick and mortar small business purchase, give yourself time to make sure you truly miss the daily interaction with others and are not just resisting the initial retirement lifestyle change. After a few months, you may find that you enjoy a life without co-workers. Plus, brick and mortar businesses are usually very expensive and high risk.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Be aware that small businesses do best in the early stages of an economic expansion.
Buy A Franchise
Franchises are proven models that come with operating procedures, training and even a lot of rules. I have not purchased a franchise but was involved with them back in my commercial real estate retail leasing days. This isn’t the model for me, but many people make a success of franchises and thrive on the structure that they provide.
♦ Investment Income Tip – Think big: Consider being the franchiser instead of the franchisee.
Getting Started with More Investment Income
You may be confused about the best income investment for you. Follow these steps:
- Clean up your expenses to get an idea of exactly how much income you need
- Decide how much time you can or want to spend on creating and managing your investment income streams
- Clarify how much risk you want to take
- Note the income options from the list above that align with your skills but don’t sell your self short.
- Set a retirement income goal of a certain amount by a specific date to motivate you
Click here to read my article Retirement Income Planning if you want more help with this step.
Consider how long it will take you to get more investment income. For example, finding and buying a good rental property can take many months or even a year. Researching high yielding stocks takes a few hours. Developing an income stream right away will propel you forward, however, you may not need the extra income quite yet; you may need to focus on wealth building for now.
Go in the overall most logical order to generate more investment income. Proceed boldly, but cautiously.