12 Ways for Retirees to Make Passive Income
“These days, “retirement” doesn’t always mean “not working.”
According to a study of U.S. retirees from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), “nine percent … are currently working for pay, including five percent who are employed part-time, two percent who are employed full-time, and two percent who are self-employed.”
“(People) no longer see retirement as a fixed point in time when someone who’s working full time immediately stops working. The new vision is a very personalized, gradual, flexible transition into retirement,” says Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of TCRS. More than half — 56% — of those surveyed said their top reason to keep working was “wanting the income.” That’s not surprising: The average retiree’s monthly Social Security check is about $1,427, according to the Social Security Administration. You might be able to make some extra dollars via passive income — money that comes in without you doing much work, or any work at all.
Passive income is often synonymous with a large upfront investment, such as buying rental properties or dividend-producing stocks. But the following passive-income strategies can bring in extra bucks without investing a bunch of money or time.
1. Rent out a room in your home
Got an empty nest? Someone may be willing to pay to roost there.
You can advertise your spare space on your own or list it on a vacation rental website such as:
Yes, it takes some work: You might have to keep the room tidy, and do a load of sheets and towels once the guests depart. But in some parts of the country, you can earn enough money in just a few days to cover a mortgage payment, as we detail in “Do This a Few Days Each Month and Watch Your Mortgage Disappear.” If you’re the gregarious type, you can have fun talking up your town or even showing visitors around. If not, advertise it as a “Here’s your key, we won’t bother you” arrangement. Some people simply want an inexpensive place to sleep and don’t care about sitting around chatting with the host.
2. Rent out your vehicle or gear
Your spare bedroom is just one of many things you could rent to others to bring in extra money. Use your imagination. Maybe you have a ladder, stroller, surfboard, bicycle, boat, camera equipment or a great selection of power tools. Peer-to-peer rental sites like the following will help you find folks who occasionally need such things but don’t want to own them:
- RVshare (recreational vehicles)
- Turo (cars)
- Boatsetter (boats)
- Spinlister (bicycles, surfboards and snowboards)
- ShareGrid (camera equipment)
- Zilok (just about anything)
Whatever you’re renting, keep in mind that ordinary insurance might not cover commercial use of your property. An insurance rider may cover some items, but you may need a separate policy, so consult your insurance agent.
3. Become a peer-to-peer lender
What is peer-to-peer lending? In short, P2P lending sites such as Prosper Funding accept loan applications from borrowers. Investors like you can put some of your money toward loans to those borrowers. When loans get paid back, so do you — with interest. Overall, P2P investments “can provide solid returns that are really hard to beat,” according to Clark.com, the website of financial guru Clark Howard. As with any loan, however, there’s the possibility of default. You may not earn anything or may even lose money. Sound too complicated? Maybe this simpler form of P2P is for you: Worthy Peer Capital sells 36-month bonds for $10 each. The money is loaned to U.S. businesses, with lenders who have purchased these bonds getting 5% interest on their investment.
To learn more about Worthy bonds, check out “Earn 50 Times More on Your Savings.”
4. Get rewards for credit-card spending
If you’re going to shop with plastic, make sure you’re rewarded. The form that reward takes is up to you. Some people covet airline miles. Others take their rewards as cash or a credit against their monthly statement. The number of rewards credit cards — and their pros and cons — can be a little dizzying. For an easy way to compare your options, check out travel rewards cards or cash-back cards in Money Talks News’ credit card search tool.
5. Use cash-back apps
An app called Ibotta lets you earn cash rebates on purchases from retailers, restaurants or movie theaters. Or do your online shopping through cash-back portals like:
These websites enable you to earn cash back on purchases from thousands of online retailers. To learn more about them, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”
6. Sell your photos
Smartphones have made decent photography possible for just about anyone. The next time you capture a killer sunset or an adorable kid-and-dog situation, don’t keep the image to yourself. Apps like Foap — which is available for Android and Apple devices — will help you sell it. You can do even better if you have a good digital SLR camera, a tripod and other equipment. Stock photo companies like Shutterstock and iStockphoto, which favor high-definition, high-quality images, are venues for selling images on just about any subject you can find.
7. Write an e-book
It’s possible to bring in cash without a high-powered book contract, thanks to self-publishing platforms. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, allows you to write, upload and sell your words fairly easily. My two personal finance books are for sale on Kindle, and they provide a steady stream of passive income. I also sell PDFs of the books through my personal website. I use a payment platform called E-junkie to handle payments and deliver the book downloads — and this brings me more money per book than Amazon does, even when I offer readers a discount.
If you’re fond of a particular fiction genre, write the kind of stuff you’d like to read. Nonfiction sells, too: cookbooks, travel guides, history, memoirs and how-tos are a few examples. Or maybe you have a specific skill to teach — job-hunting or food preservation or raising chinchillas. Getting the book written, edited, formatted and illustrated does take work upfront, and there’s no guarantee you’ll make money. But once the book is done and uploaded, your work is done and the income is passive. Promote the book online or locally, though, to help get it in front of people. For example, local libraries and colleges might be willing to host author talks or readings, after which you can sell paperback copies.
Pro tip: Fiverr.com is a good marketplace through which to find freelancers to hire for help with formatting, design and cover art.
8. Create an online course
If you’ve got useful info, why not monetize it? Sites like Teachable and Thinkific will help you build a course that could change someone’s life, either professionally or personally.
Note that online courses are not limited to computer-based topics. A quick search turns up classes on cake-making, watercolors, digital scrapbooking, drone cinematography, free-diving, blacksmithing, yoga, parenting, novel writing, job hunting and building a pet-care business. And that’s just for starters. Like writing an e-book, creating a course will take some work. But again: Once it’s up, the work is done.
9. Join rewards programs
Here’s another intriguing approach to earning passive income: Rewards sites like Swagbucks reward you with points for activities such as searching the internet, watching short videos and taking surveys. You can cash in your points for gift cards or PayPal cash. Maybe you didn’t retire to spend hours taking surveys. But if you’re going to search the internet anyway, why not use Swagbucks’ search engine and earn some points?
To learn more about Swagbucks, check out “6 Ways to Score Free Gift Cards and Cash in 1 Place.”
10. Wrap your car with advertising
Turn your vehicle into a rolling billboard with companies like Carvertise. They’ll pay you for the privilege of putting removable advertising decals for a business on your automobile. Writer Kat Tretina describes the process at Student Loan Hero. You can expect to earn $100 to $400 a month, depending on how much and where you drive, she says. Requirements include having a good driving record and a vehicle that has its factory paint job.
Pro tip: Car-advertising scams make the rounds regularly. Tretina offers these tips to avoid being victimized:
- Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee, and they’ll have a customer service phone line that lets you talk with a real person.
- The car-wrapping cost should be covered by the company.
- Take a hard pass on any company that doesn’t ask questions about your driving record, auto insurance, driving routes and type of vehicle.
11. Create an app
Maybe yours is one of those minds that says, “There should be an easier way to do (whatever) — and I think I know what it is!” If so, creating an app could bring in extra income. It could also bring in zero dollars. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? As with e-books and online courses, any expertise you have could be desperately needed by others. Personal finance writer Jackie Beck — who cleared $147,000 of debt — used her expertise to create an app called “Pay Off Debt.” Since its 2009 launch, the app has earned her $400 to $5,000 per month.
Not a coder? App-builder services exist. The WikiHow.com article “How to Create a Mobile App” tells how to get started. It’s a time-consuming process. But that’s one of the beauties of retirement: You get to set your own hours.
12. Become a package ‘receiver’
OK, this idea is unproven — so far. But it’s a solution whose time has come. The boom in online shopping has been a boon for thieves who find it easy to swipe packages left outside front doors before intended recipients get home from work. You might be able to do your part to thwart those lowdown thieves by marketing yourself as a “professional package receiver.” Try this: Put the word out — through friends, social media, places of worship — that you are available to accept deliveries. If a package is for someone in your neighborhood, you could watch the shipping company’s tracking info to be at home to take the package in. Or you could specify that packages be shipped to Original Recipient, c/o Professional Package Receiver — that’s you.
Before asking a fee of, for example, $1 per package, ask the person who wants to hire you what it’s worth to them. You might be surprised by a response like, “I’ll give you $5.” Decide, too, whether you’ll be charging per package or per order, and whether you’ll set a weight limit, such as no packages over 30 pounds. Have you used any of these (or any other) passive income strategies? Tell us all about it in the comments or on our Facebook page.