· ·

7 Income Streams I Earned While Unemployed

This article is about learning to protect yourself from a future job loss by creating sustainable income streams that will continue to pay you even if you’re not working.

If you’re unemployed today, use this article to frame your strategy once the income is back.

Of all the financial advice I read and practice, the one nugget that continues to drive my decisions is to build multiple income streams.

Having experienced two major economic downturns (2000, 2008) as a salary earner and investor, and watching ordinary people get hit hard by the impact of each, I’ve learned to build moats to protect myself when times are good.

That way, when things go sour I’m not naked in the low tide, as Warren Buffett likes to say.

This concept was especially noteworthy for me recently because I lost my nine-to-five job.

While I was still working, I built a healthy cash buffer so we’d have that to keep us afloat for a few months if needed.

But my preference is to live off of the passive income streams and online side income I’ve built over past years and to NOT draw down our savings and investments. Adherence to that will depend on how long this jobless streak lasts and how much I can earn from my online business.

Hopefully, you’re reading while you’re still employed so you can take steps today to protect against a job loss.

Update: After four months of unemployment, I found a great new job and I’m back to building my passive income streams!

The 7 Income Streams I Earned While Unemployed

I’m now earning seven income streams in addition to my full-time job.. I keep track of them all with a free online tool called Empower.

Most of these are passive, meaning I spend little time on them every month but still get paid. All income streams require some attention. But the more work I put in up front (research, due diligence, repairs etc.) the less I have to worry about day to day.

Here are the seven income streams I’m earning right now and the approximate cash flow they generate.

1. Real Estate Crowdfunding

Current Annual/Monthly Income: $1,425/$118.75

Another passive income stream I’m earning today is from real estate crowdfunding. These are high-quality real estate investments that can be made on a few different platforms as part of the ‘crowd’. The online platforms enable multiple investors to make small investments in big real estate deals.

The professionals handle all the remodeling, tenant issues, and legal mumbo-jumbo behind each deal while investors sit back and earn a return.

These kinds of investments (usually multi-unit apartments, commercial, and fix-and-flips) have been available for years, but only to high-net-worth and institutional investors with the right contacts. Crowdfunding is now enabling the smaller investors to take part, making it simpler to invest and cheaper for the borrower.

The two platforms I’m investing on are:

Please note: This is a testimonial in partnership with Fundrise. We earn a commission from partner links on RetireBeforeDad.com. All opinions are my own.

Other top crowdfunding platforms for accredited investors include:

  • CrowdStreet – Top-tier deals averaging 33% annual returns as of February 2019.
  • RealtyMogul – Both individual deals for accredited investors and REITs for non-accredited.

What I love about these platforms is I can diversify my real estate holdings across the nation very easily and participate in price increases in solid markets outside of my local. Plus, it’s an easy way to diversify away from stocks.

2. Dividends from Stocks and ETFs

Current Annual/Monthly Income: $6,744.09/$562.00

I’ve invested in dividend-paying stocks since 1995 when I was given the gift of one share of Chevron. Now I own more than 50 dividend paying stocks. Most of these stocks pay quarterly dividends and increase their dividend each year.

By building a diverse portfolio of dividend-paying stocks, I earn passive income that grows faster than the rate of inflation each year.

The best place to invest in stocks and ETFs is the no-fee online brokerage called M1 Finance which I think will appeal to most beginner to intermediate investors. This broker uses modern technology to create an incredible user experience on both desktop and mobile. As of December 2017, they’ve eliminated fees for all investors to compete with the likes of Robin Hood. Highly recommended.

$100 minimum to get started.

Learn more at M1 Finance.

Read more: M1 Finance Review

For those that need help selecting high-quality dividend growth stocks, I recommend the service I use called the Sure Dividend Pro Plan (read my review). Use that link to get a 7-day free trial and save $100 of an annual subscription.

3. Rental Property

Current Annual/Monthly Income: $3,346.06/$278.84

I’ve owned a 1BR condo unit since 2006. For the last seven years, it’s been a rental property helping to build my wealth.

I believe real estate is the best way to achieve financial freedom. However, after a second rental property fell through, I determined that one rental is enough landlording for me. I’ve favored real estate crowdfunding (#2) over the past few years instead.

One way to consider purchasing rentals is turnkey properties. Turkey properties are good for investors who live in expensive areas but want to own cash flowing properties in more affordable markets. Turnkey properties are usually sold by investors to investors and often have tenants and management in place.

Websites such as Roofstock display properties for sale and include all the details and cash flow numbers for due diligence. Sign up for free to evaluate live deals around the U.S.

4. Interest on Cash

Current Annual/Monthly Income: $600/$50

Interest on cash isn’t a very sexy investment. Especially when rates are so low they are below the rate of inflation. However, as an old-school money nerd, I remember the days of 2%, 3%, and 4% interest on cash savings accounts.

Interest on cash is the bare minimum investment everyone should make so your money is always working for you.

Click here to compare rates on high yield savings and money market accounts. 

5. Peer to Peer Lending

Current Annual/Monthly Income: $2,400/$200

Lending Club was a solid investment for the first four years I participated. My returns were above 9% for most of that time. However, in the past 12 months, earnings have taken a hit and are now in the 6.5% range. This is due to the widely reported note mispricings by Lending Club. They’ve since updated their credit model and hopefully returns will recover.

For now, I’m pulling interest and principal out of Lending Club to pad my cash flow during this jobless period. That’s why my annual and monthly numbers stated above are higher than what I report in my quarter update. The last two months I’ve withdrawn $700 and $600 respectively. Since I expect this to diminish, the $400 monthly number is a rough estimate going forward.

Once my returns stabilize (which I’m starting to sense is happening), and I’m back to work, I’ll start investing again.

6. Online Business

Current Monthly Income: $2,000+

The initial idea for this website was two-fold: 1) to be a creative outlet outside of my mundane regular job, and 2) to eventually be a source of side business income.

It took about six months before I earned my first penny with this blog, and another 18 months before I ever earned $1,000 in a single month. Since then I started a second website and I’m now officially in business with an entity and everything.

My side business income is now comfortably above $2,000 per month, but income from an online business is not stable. With this recent extra time off from my real job, I plan to take steps to further grow my online business to earn more money passively when I go back to work full-time.

Blogging is not for everyone. You have to love what you write about and do it consistently. Read this post about starting an online business to learn more.

7. Capital Gains

Current Annual/Monthly Income: Variable when needed

At this point in my jobless journey, I do not plan to sell any stocks to pay for living expenses. We have enough cash and cash flow to live on for at least a few months. I did sell a few stocks leading up to this, but not a lot. My taxable stock portfolio is now worth over $200k, so it’s there to tap if needed.

A more likely scenario is I’ll sell some stocks to lower my taxable income. A few holdings are in the red. Tax loss selling some shares would help to lower my taxes at the end of the year by up to $3,000. One stock I own is in the red by more than $2,000. I still want to own it, but may buy more shares and sell the old lot after 30 days for the tax loss.

Capital gains are more of an optional income stream if needed. If I get to that point, I won’t be happy about it!

8. Nine-to-Five Job

My company liberated me from my job in early October due to a lack of funding for my project and the surrounding IT contracts. I’m optimistic that I’ll be back to work in the next few months. However, I’m using this time to spend with our three kids, to work on my online business, declutter our house, exercise, and complete a few home DIY projects.

Having significantly built alternative income besides my full-time job, I was empowered to be able to take time off without worrying about running out of money. So far my time off has been peaceful and fun, but more difficult to avoid distractions than I imagined. So far, I’m having trouble allocating my time properly and feel I’m not as productive as I should be. But it’s a work in progress.

January 2018 was my target goal to go back to full-time work (update – a job came through in February 2018!). I did no  collect unemployment benefits during my time off of work.


Tallying up my investment income, and not including business income or capital gains, here’s what I’ve got:

Income Stream Annual Income Monthly Income
Dividends  $6,744.09  $562.00
RE Crowdfunding  $1,425.00  $118.75
Rental Property  $3,346.06  $278.84
Peer Lending $2,400.00 $200.00
Interest on Cash  $600.00 $50.00
   TOTAL $14,515.15 $1,209.60

Keep in mind, this is as close to a scorched earth scenario I’ve ever encountered. I wouldn’t normally account for my rental property and peer lending this way. But since I’m not working a full-time job anymore, my mindset has changed.

Also, $1,409.60 per month is not nearly enough for my family to live on. Our mortgage alone is above that. Preschool is almost $600, plus health care takes us up another level. I’ll be relying on my monthly business income to bridge the gap, which exceeds all of these income streams combined. But it fluctuates, and portions of my business income streams come and go.

Now that I have the time to adapt to fluctuations, I’m fairly confident that I can keep up the business income. But not to the point where I’d give up work to focus on entrepreneurship 100%. My career outside of blogging is lucrative, so I don’t want to abandon that just yet.


Most of these income streams have paid me for many years. Those payments were always reinvested. But now that I’m unemployed, I’ll be using the income streams to keep my family afloat. The rest of our expenses will be covered by cash savings.

My passive income is nowhere near where it needs to be to fund my family’s lifestyle indefinitely. That’s why I’m planning to eventually go back to work, but also why I’m building my side business income.

The investment and business income help soften the blow of the layoff. And I feel that having those in place have empowered me to handle this situation better than I could have five years ago. But losing my job could put a damper on my mid-term F.I.B.E.R goal. I don’t believe, however, that my ultimate goal of retiring by age 55, a year before my Dad did, is at risk.

Photo credit: pixel2013 via Pixabay
How to continue to earn income streams even after becoming unemployed. Without a salary, these 7 passive income streams are more important than ever.

Favorite tools and investment services right now:

Sure Dividend — A reliable stock newsletter for DIY retirement investors. (review)

Fundrise — Simple real estate and venture capital investing for as little as $10. (review)

NewRetirement — Spreadsheets are insufficient. Get serious about planning for retirement. (review)

M1 Finance — A top online broker for long-term investors and dividend reinvestment. (review)

Comments Welcome!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Brian Feroldi says:

    NIce post! Sorry to hear your career was temporarily interrupted — the same thing happened to me, and, like you, I was super glad that I had a nice cushion to see me through the income disruption. Good luck with the job search, and I hope that your online income starts to take off!

    1. Yours turned out OK, if I recall. I’m still in the early stages. I do appreciate having both a cushion and the income. But I expect things will start to get tight as time goes one. Hopefully the regular income and benefits will be back in a few months.

  2. Great to have a plan B in place. Or in your case, plans, B,C, D, ,…..It certainly helps to soften a job lose and the dent in the cash savings.

    1. It’s definitely not a perfect plan. Not quite enough cash flow. But combined with savings, we are OK for a while. Makes me want to get back on the horse and start earning a good salary again so I can bump these other income sources up.

  3. I’m really sorry about your job loss! I’ve been there, and it’s hard even when you have other sources of income. Are you going to FinCon? There are so many writing opportunities!

    1. Hi Kate,
      Yes, I’ll be at FinCon. Can’t wait. Keeping my mind open for new opportunities, especially next week. So we’ll see what develops. My priority is still a full-time job with benefits and then continuing to work the side business. But you never know! See you in Dallas!

  4. Good for you for having all those income streams already in play before you needed them. That was one of the key takeaways for me with my job loss experience. At the time, I only had my job income and even worse, we were a one-income household. Too bad it took me losing my job to figure out the value in having multiple streams of income.

    1. DH,
      Sometimes it does take a job loss to make changes. I was fortunate to see this happen to many before me in an industry where it’s common. I was lucky to last as long as I did.

  5. Thanks for the honesty in this post. I’m sorry about your job, but it seems like you’ve got a good thing going on with the passive income that you’re making. It’s very encouraging to see what you’ve been able to do with your different income streams. This definitely motivates me to continue to build up my own sources of passive income. Thanks for the post!

    1. Kong,
      I’m still in the ‘honeymoon’ phase where everything is happy. But I expect that to were off some time in November. FinCon is always a big motivator, so I should come home excited again. But as December approaches, I’m sure I’ll be antsy.

  6. fred ford says:

    I am guessing your family monthly cost to live is $5,000 – $7,000. IF so your in danger territory. Better get a job fast.

    1. Fred,
      On average, you’re probably not far off. I’d say on the higher end when I was employed, and on the lower end now that I’m not employed. We’re cutting out buying any clothing, stuff for the kids, and entertainment for the next two months, and cutting way back on our xmas budget for this year. They are young enough to not know the difference. But my side business income does bring us closer to our spending, depending on the month. Some months are bigger than others but it helps a lot. Add that to our savings, and the urgency isn’t so bad. That’s why I’m not as concerned in the short term.

      The risk is if this continues longer than 3-4 months, or, and this is a big one, if there’s a big economic or political event that impacts the local job market. War, worst case scenario, can be good in D.C. because of all the defense contracting. I hope that doesn’t happen! A widespread recession would be terrible, but D.C. lagged during the last one by about a year or two compared to the rest of the country. So if I can land something soon it should be ok. We’ll see, I’ll keep you posted.

  7. dividendsdiversify says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your premise on building multiple income streams. You have a nice well rounded and diversified portfolio of streams. Congrats and good luck expanding your online businesses. Tom

  8. I’m sorry to hear about your job loss. But as you and others have said, the benefit of having your side hustles and various income sources is that it can help soften the blow. Sure it isn’t perfect and since you cannot cover 100% of your expenses, you’ll eventually have to figure something else out (as you have said). But having the additional income/backstop must be nice and that is why I am looking to continue to growing my income sources. Good luck expanding your business in the interim and I’m excited to see what you are able to do over the next few months.