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By Carol Church

Most of us have occasionally wished we could find a way to bring in a little more money–without needing to change jobs or work a lot of extra hours. The common term for this type of moneymaking is “passive income generation.” But how plausible is it to actually make money this way?

While it’s not impossible, the dream of passive income is trickier to achieve than we might hope. Generally speaking, for any such concept to succeed, there must be a significant upfront investment of either time or money. In many cases, significant skill, talent, or luck is also necessary. Some passive income efforts will simply fail, while others may generate only a small amount of money. Still others may turn out to be far less “passive” than anticipated, turning into more of a typical “side hustle” instead. Caution is definitely in order.

However, it can still be valuable to think about ways to bring in passive income. It’s an interesting mental exercise to consider the possibilities, even if nothing comes of it. And for some, it may well be possible to generate additional funds without much work after the initial investment is complete. With this in mind, here are a few ideas for passive income generation that may work for service members, service member spouses, and military veterans and retirees, all of whom may be hoping to supplement their incomes.

Get a paying housemate

This option is not for everyone, obviously, but those who have an unused bedroom (plus bathroom, preferably), are flexible, and are willing to share space can earn some significant money this way. For outgoing people, this can also be a fun and interesting experience. Of course, interested parties should do their reading first and make sure to set up an ironclad set of house rules.

Convert part of your home into an Airbnb (or a similar option)

For those who have a guest room and the ability to spend some money and time to turn this extra space into an attractive living area for vacationers, it’s possible to turn a tidy profit renting out that extra space, while not putting forth a lot of effort. Owners will be responsible for paying a fee to Airbnb, cleaning (or hiring someone to), responding to emergencies, and dealing with potential loss and breakage. They will also need to check their insurance to see if it will cover this use of the home. Don’t forget, too, that there may be local laws governing how this works (some may cumbersome and require paying taxes).


MonkeyBusiness Images/Photospin

Become a landlord

This is often a very natural (or even necessary) choice for service members, due to the frequency with which they move. VA loans also make this option attractive, since it’s easy to buy a new home with a no-money-down VA loan while keeping a former home as a rental. There are tax benefits as well. But don’t forget that repairs can be expensive, tenants can be a hassle, and that it may be necessary to hire a property manager, especially if you’ve relocated far away.


Write an eBook

If one happens to have valuable niche knowledge on something people want to know and the ability to write clear prose, it may be possible to capitalize on this. Of course, this option requires quite a bit of upfront time, but once the book is complete, attractively packaged, and placed on the market, sometimes there isn’t much need to put in much work. (However, marketing will make a big difference as far as success, and returns aren’t likely to be high.)

Try peer to peer lending

With this new and interesting investment option, investors lend out money to borrowers who have not been able to get loans in other ways, and collect interest. It may sound risky, and there certainly is a chance that your borrowers will default, which is why all advice is to diversify very highly and only lend small amounts to each person. When it works, however, it’s possible to earn upwards of 6% interest. Lending Club and Prosper are two popular sites. (Note that many P2P investment options require a minimum annual income.)


License or sell creative work

For this option, it’s necessary to have preexisting skill or talent in areas like graphic design or photography; however, these are skills held by a surprisingly high number of people. The trick to generating passive income here is to create something that can be reproduced and bought again and again. This works well for something like stock photography images (sold on a variety of sites, sometimes for very high prices) and graphic design files (sold by individual designers on sites like Café Press or Etsy).



Of course, this is the most obvious passive income generator, but one that still gets neglected. We hope that all service members are saving for retirement through the TSP, but there are many additional options to supplement this, including CDs, IRAs, mutual funds, index funds, and now, the many interesting and low- or no-fee “robo-investing” apps out there, such as Betterment and Wealthfront.

As experts in this area know, passive income really isn’t usually very passive, at least on the front end. However, over time, it may become a relatively low-effort enterprise that brings in some additional cash flow. Those considering these options should research carefully–but be willing to dream.


Rose, J. (2017). 23 passive income ideas you can start today.

Schneider, B. (n.d.) Peer-to-peer lending breaks down financial borders. Retrieved from