Passive Income – Naughty or Nice?

As we start this series of posts on the classic (and sometimes controversial) topic of Passive Income, it’s worth taking a bit of time to agree on what we’re talking about when we use the phrase.

It seems there’s a massive misunderstanding around whether passive income is to be aspired to or or something to be suspicious of. It’s an innocent enough phrase but why does it evoke such strong opinions both for and against?

What’s the reality behind passive income? As with most things in life, taking the time to understand something is usually well worth the effort.

I suspect there are two key reasons for this lack of understanding:

  1. There is no simple definition of what passive actually is and how it can be attained, and therefore a lot of confusion around the whole subject.
  2. The phrase has, like several others, been used and associated with “get rich quick” schemes. The idea put out to the unwary is that passive income is a way of getting money for nothing and often for no financial commitment, which is highly appealing but ultimately doomed.

To try to address both of these reasons let’s get down to some proper definitions.

The most succinct definition of passive income I have found, from trading website ADVFN is: “Income (such as investment income) that does not come from active participation in a business.”

Often the best place to look for definition of income types ought to be from the tax man. In the UK passive income isn’t a category for tax purposes, but you can get a feel here for what HMRC considers passive income.

But according to the US tax service there are three types of income:

  • Active income
  • Passive income
  • Portfolio income

Active income is when you trade time for money. A regular Job.

Dictionaries can’t quite decide in some case the difference between passive and portfolio income.

According to Investopedia, US passive income is “Earnings an individual derives from a rental property, limited partnership or other enterprise in which he or she is not materially involved.”

And portfolio income is “income from investments, dividends, interest, royalties and capital gains. Portfolio income does not come from passive investments and is not earned through normal business activity. Typically, income from interest on money that has been loaned does not count as portfolio income.” – Investopedia, again.

(It’s somehow reassuring to know that the simple phrase passive income seems equally misunderstood on both sides of the Atlantic!).

Nevertheless, all agree that the difference between active and passive (or portfolio) income is whether one is materially involved in generating the income.

Some income is more passive than others.

In reality there is seldom black-and-white active or passive income – most income is somewhere on a scale between the two…

What about property income ?

Since we’re on a property blog, this is an excellent question. If you’re a landlord and working directly in your business are you getting passive income? I would say not quite – its somewhere on the scale : semi-passive. If you’ve delegated out all the work to managing agents, what then? Still not 100% passive but getting closer.

If you’ve invested in a fully-managed purpose-built student property ?

Or invested in property bonds or crowdfunding?

Again these sit on the scale of semi-passive, especially when you include the due diligence and research needed before making the investment. It’s hands-on, “do-once” work, but work it certainly is.

And in the end

In conclusion, I would suggest that a stronger investment goal than the Holy Grail of pure passive income is to create income streams through investments that are leveraged by other peoples time (lettings agents, good brokers, investment researchers) and perhaps also other peoples’ money (for example secured loans and mortgages).

I’ll leave you with an example of semi-passive property income: Purpose-built student property is a proven “done-for-you” model. Once you’ve carried out your due diligence and own the student suite, there is literally nothing to do for years –  except receive your net rental income (which compares very favourably with labour-intensive buy-to-let).

Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself some passive income in action…

Why are Property Bonds growing in popularity with investors and developers?

With us living longer, pension funds are not giving many of us the financial future we planned for, and other ways are often sought to grow financial nest-eggs to top up that future income. Bank savings accounts aren’t delivering on that either…

So is there a place in a portfolio for Property Bonds – for those of us that would rather be the lender than the property developer?

With good Property Bonds, you team up with an established property developer in a Joint Venture. But there are none of the set-up costs for the bond holder that you would normally associate with a direct property development project, or the advisor fees that come with buying traditional regulated investments: all of your capital goes to work for you.

Here are a few other key reasons to consider profiting from Property Bonds:

  • Property is seen as a secure asset class and with not enough homes being built in the UK demand continually outstrips the supply.
  • There are more and more obstacles in directly owning investment property. Heavier taxation for residential investment property and reduction of tax reliefs for expenses; difficulty in raising mortgage finance for buy- to-let; dealing with tenants; licensing; regulation, the possibility of rent controls; the list goes on). Many property investors are looking for less hassle and more profit: being the lender, not the landlord.
  • As part of this movement, investors who are cash-rich and time-poor are looking to partner with developers by lending rather than getting directly involved in the day-to-day running of projects.
  • In uncertain economic times a predictable fixed income for a known period of time has much appeal.
  • Whilst no investment is risk-free and they’re not for everyone, a well-chosen Property Bond can offer credible security and a practical exit strategy should things go wrong with the developer.

Learn how to spot a good property bond, and those to avoid. All this and more is covered in our Property Bonds guide – grab your copy today:

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There is a lot of talk about Property Bonds as a new, simple and secure way of enjoying bank-beating returns without the hassle of direct property ownership. But choosing from the growing list of advertised products can be a minefield.

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Over the last couple of months we’ve been very busy behind the scenes studying the Property Bonds market place. As bonds become more and more popular with medium-sized property developers as a way of generating finance for their projects, we are set to see more and more bonds and loan-note investments being offered.

Our findings have been fascinating.

The choice of property bonds is already somewhat bewildering, and the range of quality and safety is wide. We have discovered that there are some excellent offerings available today with very reputable property developers, business models and bond structures that offer investors strong but realistic returns, with investor security at the forefront.

But not all such bonds are equal. It has concerned me greatly that very high rates are being advertised in some cases to attract investor interest but when we apply the weight of our due diligence processes, many leave a great deal to be desired.

We’re sharing our knowledge with investors, and showing them how to discern the good products from the mediocre as well as providing our own critique and expert guidance to them. 

To find out more about the world of Property Bonds, you can download our Special Report today…