My Paychecks, Businesses, and Investments

By - January 25, 2014

Subscribers to the Unusual Ways Newsletter sometimes ask how I make a living. The answer changes as I move from this to that job or business project, but here is the basic outline of what's going on right now. I won't get too specific with the numbers, for privacy reasons and because they change so often. But perhaps some readers will get a few ideas about generating income and dealing with money issues in general.

Online Publishing

I've hinted at previously that the days of our six-figure income are over for now. My wife Ana and I started our online publishing business over nine years ago for an investment of a couple hundred dollars, and it continued to grow even when I cut back to working twenty hours weekly in order to climb and hike more in Colorado. It eventually allowed us to pay over $30,000 in taxes some years -- the downside of a large income. Now our websites provide less than $2,000 per month from advertising, affiliate products and my e-books, and we expect that to keep falling (at least I do -- my wife is more optimistic). But hey, we pay a lot less in taxes now.

I spend about ten to fifteen hours weekly maintaining the sites and newsletters. Fortunately we did not spend all the money when times were good, and we never went into debt. If you happen to hit it big in something new (it was much easier when we started out online than it is now), don't count on everything going just fine forever. Prepare for tough times, just in case.

Author Royalties

In November I received a royalty check for over $2,000 for the previous six months' sales of 101 Weird Ways to Make Money. I expect that to fall to around $800 for the next semi-annual installment, because sales of non-fiction books tend to taper off quickly after the first year or two. I've made a total of about $18,000 in royalties from the book so far. Residual income like royalties is nice. I should probably get a few more books written. I have one particular one in mind at the moment, and I've written parts of it.

Real Estate Installment Sales

We sold a home in Michigan quite a few years ago (and have moved to Arizona, Colorado, and Florida since then) and we still get payments from the buyer each month. Those will keep coming in for another 4 years or so. Actually, only the interest should be considered income. The rest is a return of capital, although we also made a nice profit. Keep in mind that if you can sell on payments you can usually get a higher price for a house or other property, and usually get a higher interest rate than the banks charge. We are only getting 7%, but I have received up to 11% on deals like this. Because the balance is getting low now the interest amounts to only about $100 per month, but every little bit helps.

Part-Time Jobs

Ana is teaching Spanish in an adult education program for $20 per hour, working about six hours weekly. Unlike myself, she has college degrees, but for most classes this isn't a requirement. I could teach a class on how to publish one's own books, for example, and Ana taught a class on using social media for a while. As long as you have some experience in anything and at least five people sign up for the class you propose you could have a job (although the application process is as tedious and bureaucratic as you would expect from an organization filled with highly-degreed people). It's something to keep in mind if you have evenings free and want to make a little extra income. It's a particularly good opportunity here, with more than a thousand students (mostly retirees) enrolled in the various six-week-long classes, but many towns have adult education classes like these on a smaller scale.

I'm working a couple days per week as a handyman and painter, making about $12 per hour. I like the extra income, but I'm also learning all the skills necessary to work on fixer upper homes in case I decide to buy and sell them. We did fix and sell the condo above ours about a year ago. Since we planned to rent it out and changed our minds we didn't buy cheaply enough to make a big profit, but we made a few thousand anyhow. You can read about that experience here:

Lending Money

We have a loan out to a real estate investor at a decent rate. That brings in hundreds of dollars per month in interest. It is secured by a mortgage on a nice home that's worth twice what the loan amount is, so there is very little risk.

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