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Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-11-2004, 12:25 PM   #1
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Multiple Streams of Income

This post was put to the Motley Fool board on June 28, 2001 (REHP Post #43,904).

I believe in the concept of Multiple Profit Centers, which I discovered in a book called Making a Living Without a Job, by Barbara Winters. She argues that: "Rather than thinking in terms of having a single source of income (as we are trained to do when we see our income tied to our job), the savvy entrepreneur thinks about developing several income sources....No prudent investor puts all his saving in one stock, and no sensible business goes after only one customer."

The fundamental problem with much corporate work, in my view, is that the individual employee is vulnerable to the whims of a large, unresponsive, inefficient organization. If you have a newsletter with 1,000 subscribers, no one of them can pressure you into doing something you don't feel good about. The income from the other 999 keeps you going, and over time you get more subscribers by making sound decisions. But the corporate employee must go along with the decisions of his or her one boss, no matter how short-sighted the boss may be. Demonstrating loyalty is more important to the process of getting ahead than is demonstrating competence or creativity.

My financial independence stash (FI stash) supplies one stream of income, the one that is most critical, the one that pays the bills for food and shelter. Now I'm working on developing other streams. If for any reason one stream does not produce what I hoped (say, my investments do poorly), the odds are that I will be able to make up the loss with income from some other stream (freelance writing or one of the other ideas I am working on).

There is not much connection between my ability to make money from freelance writing and my ability to make money from investments. So there is no reason to think that bad times will hit both income streams at the same time, as happens when a worker with stock options gets a double hit when his employer falls on hard times.

Actually, corporate employees often suffer a triple hit. Their investments go down, their income goes down, and the demand for their skills on the job market all go down at the same time if the reason for the employer's troubles are general market conditions. This is not so for the freelancer. Demand for freelancers often goes up in recessions because employers need sometime to handle the work previously done by the people terminated, and don't want to take on full-time employees.

There are lots of possibilities for work and pay that open up when you no longer are dependent on a wage for the basic expenses. Most workers never explore the possibilities because the idea of not being dependent on a corporate salary is one they view as not within the range of the possible. Achieve financial independence, even at a level where only the basic expenses are covered, and a new world of alternatives open up to you.

These alternatives don't pay as much at the start. That's why most people don't see much appeal in them. But they have two big advantages.

First, many of them have the potential to provide big pay-offs down the road. You might not receive much return in the early years because most of your compensation then is in the form of advancement along the learning curve. But on the day when you figure out how to produce something with strong market value, the returns all go to you (whereas an employee who comes up with a million dollar idea might get a pat on the back and a $5,000 raise).

Second, the worker with multiple income streams is far less vulnerable to economic downturns, corporate mergers, and other unpleasant surprises.

There's one big downside to Winter's approach, in my view--the possibility of falling victim to Starving Artists Syndrome. That's where you love the work you do in theory, but are so worried about paying the bills that in the real world you are having little fun. In my view, this can be as bad a situation as making a big salary and hating the work you do. The idea is not to jump from one extreme to the other, but to figure out how to obtain the greatest possible enjoyment of life out of your particular set of work skills.

The likelihood is that in time your independent ventures will start to pay off, at least to some degree, but it is entirely possible that there will be a few years where you earn so little that you are forced to economize in ways that are genuinely painful. The whole point of my financial independence plan was to find protection from this downside of the Multiple Income Streams approach to work.

With an FI stash, I don't have to worry about living through a time where I eat pork and beans and stay out of the path of the landlord. The only consequence of a bad year for me is that I don't get to take a vacation or buy a new car. So I get the best of both worlds--I can't be fired, and I'll never be really poor. On top of that, I get to choose the work I find most appealing.

To my mind, the Multiple Streams of Income approach offers the best overall package of benefits: it guarantees soul-satisfying work, leaves open the possibility of a big financial pay-off, and eliminates the curse of paycheck dependence.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-11-2004, 01:19 PM   #2
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

*****

Once again you have done a more better job of nailing (with the benefit of hindsight) what actually happened in our first ten years of ER. Even probably missing some items - 16 wks severance pay, duplex rental income, about 1.8 yrs total temp work - his and hers, two pensions showing up four yrs apart, widowed mom's SS, DRIP stock dividends and misc stock(merger/spin off) cap gains plus duplex sale by owner(then divorce) and a sudden cap gain.

Still have IRA and SS to look forward to as added income streams.
Our mish mash is better stated by your Multiple Income Streams post - it sounds more elegant.


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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-11-2004, 02:57 PM   #3
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Hi *****,

Thanks for the easter gift, it was good reading, and the concept of multiple streams of unrelated income, some even to do with part time (in my case self employed) labor is something that I completely agree with, and am working to implement into my RE plan.

-pan-
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 06:49 AM   #4
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

The words below were first posted as a response to a question re my "Multiple Streams of Income" post that kicks off this thread.

I realize that you are probably joking about the commercially viable song thing. But what I try to do is identify the things I feel passionate about, and then explore income possibilities. I keep a binder of business ideas, and there are now hundreds of ideas in it. Some of them are no doubt completely impractical. But if ever I get to the point where I need some extra income, I can pull out the binder and review dozens of promising options. I devote as much time to making lists of income-generation possibilities as I do to making lists of investment options (and I only pull the trigger on the really special ideas on either list).

The key to this approach is to define a commercially viable business as one that you can count on to deliver $10,000 or so of annual income, not more. Most people think that they can quit their jobs only by starting a business that replaces their entire corporate salary, so they are looking for ideas with a strong chance of generating $40,000 or more. Those are few and far between for a very good reason--lots of people want to escape the rat race and, once word gets out of a self-employment option that produces that sort of income, those already in it are flooded with imitators. The large number competing for the same consumer dollar pulls prices down, and soon a business that was once "viable" no longer is.

So perhaps there was a time when someone with a decent ability to craft a tune could have made a living as an independent writer of advertising jingles. But probably you can't do that today, and be sure of earning enough to live on. But lower your personal threshold of financial viability, and you create lots of appealing options for yourself.

I subscribe to a magazine called "On the Tracks." The articles are all Bob Dylan, all the time. It is put out by a man and a woman who have a passion for Bob Dylan's music, and wanted to make a living do something Bob Dylanish (pray for them!). I doubt that there are a million subscribers to this particular publication. And there are not a lot of big companies that want to advertise in it.

But it has been an ongoing enterprise for five years or so. The two owners (who are also the editors, the customer service dept., etc) have come up with some clever ways of making small bits of income from this idea. They sell back issues--Bob Dylan collectors will buy anything with his name on it. They sell original artwork dealing with Dylan at high mark-up prices; a few sales a year make a difference so long as the income target for the business is not too high. They offer for sale every bit of Dylan merchandise known to the world (books, albums, posters); there's not much profit on each particular sale, but being known as the most Dylan-centric of the many places that offer this stuff wins them sales from a certain group.

On first impression, the idea of publishing a Dylan magazine doesn't sound much more viable than the idea of writing a hit song. But they created a niche through sheer intense persistance. It can be done so long as you don't need $40,000 in the first year to feed yourself.

I believe that the reason why most start-ups fail is not because of lack of capital to expand the business. It is because they don't produce sufficient profit to feed the owners. If you only require $10,000 of profits from an enterprise, you are almost immune from competition. No one else can offer the same services at the same price because all others need to include in their prices the amount that goes to pay their rent.

I knew a guy who had a start-up tax publishing business. He filed a Freedom of Information request for a group of documents of interest to practitioners, and built a publication from it. But the big guys came in and offered the same material for a price that included so little profit that no one could live on it. (Once they eliminated the competition, they were able to jack the price back up.) By getting yourself into a position where you only need a business venture to generate a small profit, you gain the sort of power over competitors that is usually only enjoyed by large monopolies.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 06:53 AM   #5
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Part Two:

I can't offer specific ideas that would work for you because the whole concept is that the work would be so aligned with your life passions that it would be worth it to you to work for what amounts to a small hourly wage. But if you start looking for ideas from this perspective, I think that you will be able to come up with lots of possibilities. I have come up with more possibilities for myself than I will be able to exhaust in one lifetime.

You might wonder, isn't it easier to just save the amount needed for complete financial independence and not bother with the Multiple Income Stream strategy? Perhaps, if you are in no hurry to leave your job. But this strategy can cut the time it takes to leave a job you don't like in half; so if fast results are imporrtant to you, this is something to consider.

Say that you can live on $24,000 after paying off your mortgage. Using the 4 percent rule, you need $600,000 of accumulated capital to make the break. That's 18 years that you will remain at a job you don't like, even if you can save $33,000 a year. Not too exciting a prospect.

Now assume that you have come up with two small ventures that each will produce $6,000 a year. Now you only need $300,000 of accumulated capital (to produce $12,000 of income each year) and you can make realistic plans to leave your current job in 9 years. If you get some raises to increase your saving, or have exceptional investment returns, maybe it will happen in seven. A goal that will be realized that soon is "real" in a way that one that will not be realized for nearly two decades into the future is not.

If I had to wait until I had enough savings to never expect to earn another dollar, I don't think I would have been able to pull off what I did. It would have been too discouraging to think how long it was going to take to realize my goals. But I was able to go from zero savings to enough to leave the corporate world forever in less than nine years through use of the Multiple Income Stream concept.

I only need to produce about $6,000 from my writing to get by, so long as my wife continues with work she does at home that brings in about $4,000. But not needing to save the $250,000 required to generate the euqivalent income without post-retirement work turned my FI plan from unsatisfactory to workable. So this is an option for some people in some sets of circumstances.

Following this approach may mean that I will need to continue to work (at tasks giving me intense satisfaction) for a long time to come. But there is also a good chance that it will not. In any year in which I earn more than $6,000, all the extra money goes into saving (or vacations). If I were to earn $50,000 one year, $44,000 (minus taxes) goes straight to my accumulated capital account. A few good years, and I will be able to not work at all if I so choose.

The reality is that the psychic income I get from my Mutliple Income Stream work is so great that I expect to continue doing it well past age 65. So there was no trade-off for me in going this route. It offered me a way to cut the time I had to stay at my job in half by doing things that I would do for free if I didn't need the small amounts of money they bring in.

It is not usually a great idea to become a songwriter when you are 22 and have no savings. But something along those lines may become entirely practical once you have been around long enough to accumulate a reasonable amount of capital and to gain a little knowledge of how to put together marketable ideas. Do What You Love, but Create a Nice Fat Financial Cushion First, and You'll Do Great Whether Any Money Follows or Not.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 11:27 AM   #6
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Interesting post, *****. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has actually taken this route. I'm thinking of doing something along these lines to generate funds for fun stuff. Who is doing this? What type of work are you doing? What are the downsides? What advice do you have for others?
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 12:16 PM   #7
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

I've been generating multiple income streams for years. *The trick, in my opinion, is to focus on sources that are low-overhead and offer recurring revenue. * Here are a few examples in order of increasing desirability:

1) Become a "picker" and sell stuff on eBay. * Could be good margins, but very time consuming and sales are non-recurring.

2) Rent stuff. * Houses are the most obvious, but also the most capital-intensive and time-intensive.

3) Rent hard-to-find stuff to discriminating users. * I have a deal with a law firm that pays me ongoing "rent" for some stuff I loan them to use in patent cases. *I won't go into much detail to protect my turf * * I have a friend who collects cool stuff and rents them as props to movie studios.

4) Provide a web service on a fee or subscription basis. * This can be tough to get going, but very low maintenance costs and recurring revenue make it a goldmine.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 01:09 PM   #8
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

One I've considered is pet sitting, dog walking, perhaps even house sitting.

If you like animals, you can make a good bit of cash. There are generally not an overload of these services available, and if you live near a moderate density housing area, you've got a gold mine of customers.

I considered the handyman business, but that started to sound like more trouble than it would be worth.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 01:58 PM   #9
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Thanks wabmester. One thing I have encountered in the past is the cost of liability insurance. That can have a big impact on a tiny business that generates the type of income ***** references. But I've been knocking around a few ideas.

I had a client who cleaned light fixtures at retail stores. He was able to show they could lower the wattage, have enough savings from that to pay him, and still come out ahead.

I've considered conservator work (managing money for elderly and disabled who can't). A lawyer told me there is a real need for this, and it can be done from home.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 04:44 PM   #10
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Making money from teaching or playing music is one of the classic dreams of the 20-something (at least playing music anyways). However, it is almost impossible to make a full living from it and most of them have day jobs. At some point most of them give up. In retirement or semi-retirement it would be possible to make enough to supplement an originally "not quite enough" portfolio or an originally "enough but failed" portfolio.

Around here, a group lesson at one of the local music stores runs $75 / month for 4 one-hour classes in a group of 8. That class brings the instructor about $7000 per year. Some of that will go to the store for the facility - lets even say half - leaving the instructor with $3500. This instructor gives multiple classes (different levels and time slots) so is making perhaps $35,000 per year from group classes and likely more (the store likely gets a smaller cut as the lessons bring in students who buy stuff from the store). That's about 10 hours per week - not bad.

Private lessons bring about $65 / hour so you could turn those same 10 hours a week into about the same $35K / year. More likely you would teach a combination of group and private lessons as the guy who does the above group lessons is pretty well organized about this.

You could also do some live gigging in addition to the teaching or instead of it. Even if you figure on a meagre $400 / month then you're still making $5K / year. I figure on doing something like this when I retire (and stop travelling) just for the love of doing it - if live performance still exists. The bucks will be spent down to the point that there is little to no profit for taxation. I'll spend it on new gear, taking master level classes, perhaps go on "road show tours" to other towns that are barely profitable but would be fun to visit, etc.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 05:14 PM   #11
 
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

I am completely ignorant about making music. However,
my son was an expert on the guitar. Did some live gigs
and gave lessons for a while. He never planned to make
a living from it though. I recall once he recorded an
audio tape for me which included the Robert Johnson classic 'Sweet Home Chicago'. He had the original
version taped just prior to his version (made in an
apartment with one partner). Honestly, I thought
his version was as good or better. He was that good.
Not sure he even plays now..............

John Galt
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 04-23-2004, 07:05 PM   #12
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

I have mentioned this before, and still strongly recommend writing webpages with Google Adsense advertising. I don't know how long this will last, but it is well worth the effort right now. Take a look at my website for an example. My homepage currently pays about half of my mortgage. This forum should have adsense on it as well.

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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 12:07 PM   #13
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

"I have mentioned this before, and still strongly recommend writing webpages with Google Adsense advertising. I don't know how long this will last, but it is well worth the effort right now. Take a look at my website for an example. My homepage currently pays about half of my mortgage. This forum should have adsense on it as well"

What kind of webpage does it have to be in order for google to accept you?
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 01:09 PM   #14
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Quote:
"I have mentioned this before, and still strongly recommend writing webpages with Google Adsense advertising. *I don't know how long this will last, but it is well worth the effort right now. *Take a look at my website for an example. *My homepage currently pays about half of my mortgage. *This forum should have adsense on it as well"

What kind of webpage does it have to be in order for google to accept you?
Hi Maggie,

Can you elaborate on what you are doing and how? I'm not familiar with Google Adsense and I have no idea how you would use it to pay half your mortgage.

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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 02:21 PM   #15
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Maggie was quoting Skylark's previous comment about Google Adsense. It's an advertising banner of some sort. Assuming you have a web page of public interest, I take it that you set up something with Google, put some code in your site and get paid based on....something er other. If you click on the link in Skylark's signature you'll see four text links followed by "Ads by Google"...that's AdSense I presume.

I'm keeping the idea in the back of my head, but I don't know what publicy interesting topic might pay half my rent.

P.S. Maggie, I bet if you go to Skylark's link above and then click the "Ads by Google" link you'll probably find the terms and conditions. I expect they'll be happy to place ads on just about any web page with possible exceptions for objectionable content.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 02:32 PM   #16
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

I must have missed Maggie's post, twas I who wrote the Adsense recommendation.

Adsense is looking for content on whatever subject you are interested in writing about. It helps to have a subject that has lucrative advertising related to it. They do have an approval process, but if you have 20 or more pages of good content, I think your chances are good of getting approved.

Generally the best strategy seems to be to write short, page sized articles that are optimized for search engine keywords for your subject. Simple, fast loading pages are easy to write with a text editor.

Here is a good resource for Adsense advice:

http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum89/

I am not allowed to discuss compensation due to the terms of the agreement, but I can say that 100 clicks on Ad sen se a day pays well over half of my mortgage.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 05:29 PM   #17
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

If ya kick us some compensation, we'll all go click like crazy on the ad banners.

Hell, we have nothing else to do.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 06:11 PM   #18
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Quote:
If ya kick us some compensation, we'll all go click like crazy on the ad banners.

Hell, we have nothing else to do.
I'm sorry, but those jobs have been outsourced overseas.

I'm not exactly joking. I don't think it's profitable anymore, but I've read they used to have sweatshops of people clicking on ads overseas back in the dot.boom days. I recently read that the overseas thing now is to play these persistent world online games like Everquest, build up a character with valuables and money and then auction off the account on eBay or similar site. Sheesh.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-24-2004, 07:14 PM   #19
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Yep some writer was going to do the evercrack/ebay thing and see if he could outstrip his writing income. I think he did, or came close.

Now that I think about that, I LIKE video games and used to be addicted to DUNGEO and ADVENTUR when they ran on the PDP-10/PDP-11's way back when.

I might have just been advised of a new stream of income...

And another thing...

Anyone want to bid on taking ownership of my ID, post count and prior bucket of horsepuckey? Come on...you know down deep you really wanna be TH.
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income
Old 05-25-2004, 05:11 AM   #20
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Re: Multiple Streams of Income

Thanks guys. Well, I read Google's terms and conditions and they state that personal webpages are not accepted. So, I am pretty much out of the loop. It's only for businesses.

Is there anything else out there with a possibility of brining some little money?

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