Hundreds and thousands of people have been able to put themselves on the millionaires and billionaires list from the earnings that they make from passive income. If they traded time for money like the vast majority of the population, they would not have been able to acquire so much sustained wealth. However, they did not make their money from one day to the next.
Is Passive Income a Myth? Passive income is not a myth. Contrary to the vast majority of the population, millions of people are not trading their time for money, and are therefore making passive income rather than active income. Those making passive income generate it in variety of ways including through business ventures, investments, outsourcing and automating their businesses.
Too often the wealthy are stigmatized for having stepped out of the norm and made more than a living doing it (just read the comments section of this article). We want to flip and reverse that mentality. No matter how you look at it, the wealthy put years and years of work into creating their now passive income streams. To millionaire from passive income, you must be patient, hard working, skilled, dedicated and committed to your goals.
In this article we uncover some of the richest people in the world who, after years and years of hard work, are now making millions in passive income. All of them come from humble beginnings and worked hard to build the passive income streams they now benefit from. We cover some very famous people, and others who are less known in the press. We also talk about how each of these millionaires are giving back to society. Let’s dive in.
1. Gary Vaynerchuck
- Main Source of Passive Income: Business
- Net Worth: $160M
- First Started: 1998
Gary Vaynerchuck is an investor, author, motivational speaker and vlogger. Apart from producing highly engaging content on LinkedIn, Snapchat, Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, he was an early investor in Facebook and Twitter among a number of successful startups, and runs a well-established digital marketing agency that he co-owns with his brother. The entrepreneur had built a multimillion dollar venture even before he became a social media influencer.
Gary’s Humble Beginnings
Vaynerchuk was born in Babruysk, in the Soviet Union, and immigrated to the US in 1978. At age 3, he lived in a studio-apartment in New York, with 8 other family members. His family later moved to Edison, New Jersey where he ran a lemonade-stand and earned thousands of dollars on weekends trading baseball cards. At age 14, he joined his family’s retail-wine business and after college, in 1998 he became manager of his father’s wine store. Within five years of establishing his website and online video show, the store’s sales volume grew from $3 million to $60 million annually by 2013.
How Does Gary Vaynerchuck Make Passive Income?
Gary is an extremely passionate entrepreneur. He still works very hard building up his business to one day buy the Jets (baseball team). But he does not trade his time for money directly. Through his digital marketing agency called VaynerMedia, Gary is able to build engaging content using his experience and personal branding skills. He helps other business ventures gain clientele and grow their business by offering services such as paid media, presentations, VaynerMentors (which a premium consultancy venture that is helping million dollar firms scale up their business), influencer programs, podcasting, book sales and creative media ads (source).
Gary Gives Back
Gary has assisted the Pencils for Promise organisation that helps build schools, train teachers, and fund scholarships in Ghana (source).
2. Jack Ma
- Main Source of Passive Income: Alibaba, eCommerce Platform
- Net Worth: $38.1B
- First Started: 1994
Jack Ma is a politician, investor and business magnate. He is the co-founder of Alibaba Group which is a B2B eCommerce platform. The business mogul is often seen as a global ambassador for Chinese businesses and as an important role model for start-ups. Jack began his career by building websites after he quit his job in 1999 to establish Alibaba with a couple of friends. Jack Ma is one of the wealthiest Chinese nationals with an estimated net worth of approximately $38.1 billion. He is also ranked as the 21st most powerful man in the world by Forbes (source).
Jack’s Humble Beginnings
Jack Ma was born on 10th, September, 1964, in Hangzhou, China. At a very young age he was interested in learning English and would talk to tourists to improve his skills. When he was old enough, he would ride his bicycle 70 minutes a day, to and from tourist areas, in order to practice with English-speaking tourists by providing them free tours of the city.
Ma struggled to pass the entrance exams for college. Only one exam is held per year, and it took him 4 years to finally pass. He applied to thirty different jobs and got rejected by all of them. Even KFC rejected him for a manager position after interviewing 24 people and accepting 23. He also applied to Harvard ten times, and was rejected each time (source).
How Does Jack Ma Make Passive Income?
Alibaba is mainly a B2B eCommerce platform that provides access to wholesale products from various traders, most of which are located in China. While Alibaba does not own the products available on the platform, the company has managed to connect International resellers with the Chinese market, filling a well-needed gap in today’s global economy.
Jack Ma Gives Back
The Jack Ma Foundation is a philanthropic organization focused on improving education, the environment and public health.
- 2008: Alibaba donated $808,000 donated to victims of the Sichuan earthquake
- 2015: Alibaba funded rebuilding 1,000 houses damaged by the earthquake that hit Nepal
- 2015: Alibaba raised money to help rebuild 9,000 damaged by the earthquake that hit Nepal
- 2019: The Jack Ma foundation created Netpreneur, an initiative that grants 10 prizes of $1M each to 10 African entrepreneurs per year
- 2019: The Jack Ma foundation created a fund with $14.6M to develop education in Tibet
3. Grant Cardone
- Main Source of Passive Income: Real Estate
- Net Worth: $350M
Grant Cardone is a real estate tycoon, public speaker, CEO, investor and author. Grant Cardone is an internationally renowned sales trainer. His best selling book, The 10X Rule and If You’re Not First, You’re Last. His primary venture is Cardone Training Technologies, which provides Fortune 500 companies and other businesses with hands-on sales training. He also runs a popular show on his YouTube channel where he answers live questions from viewers who can call in.
Grant’s Humble Beginnings
Grant Cardone struggled with drugs, addictions and ADD in his early twenties. His father died when he was 10 and his older brother died when he was 20. He was almost shot at 23 but could not kick his drug habit. He could not hold a job and had to let go of his dreams of being a pro baseball player. After using drugs for another two years, his mom told him he was no longer welcome at home. That’s when he decided it was time to turn his life around. The rehab center he attended told him he would never overcome his habit, he proved them wrong.
How Does Grant Cardone Make Passive Income?
The bulk of Grant Cardone’s income is from real estate and the successful businesses he runs. He also makes money from his best-selling books, investments and YouTube channel.
Grant Cardone Gives Back
The Grant Cardone Foundation has raised over $800k to provide financial literacy and education to at-risk populations and youth (source).
4. Ricky Kessler & Jim Harmer
- Main Source of Passive Income: Blogging
- Net Worth: >$1M
Note – ‘Like You and I’ This list has so far contained very well known celebrities. We added some less-known, more relatable people who are also making Millions from passive income.
Project 24 is a course by Rick and Jim, two excellent online marketers who share their proven way to make successful passive income blogs that can replace a full-time income in 24 months. Their course is geared towards beginners who want to learn how to make money online. Their approach is to teach from actual experience since they have been doing it for years, and are still building website today.
The course actually contains way more than content what Rick and Jim advertise, including a huge community of other members, vlog, Podcast, many digital resources, and 13 in-depth courses including a blogging, YouTube, photography and podcasting course. Their content is updated weekly as Rick and Jim clarify their methodologies with new changes to Google’s algorithms. They are not shy to share the successes and failures of their large-scale online marketing tests.
Rick & Jim’s Humble Beginnings
Rick and Jim are both from Idaho. Jim Harmer was a law school student in debt, with a small family when he created his first successful blog. His blog was not an overnight success, and he learned some tough lessons, but overcame the learning curve and made significant income from his photography site that is still making him passive income today. After obtaining his legal licence, he actually decided to pursue his career in blogging instead of practicing law.
Ricky Kessler, Jim’s long time friend from high school, joined him on his blogging adventures a couple years later. After witnessing the success of the new sites they were creating following a formula they perfected by learning from their successes and failures, they created Income School to teach others to build successful blogs and sustain their families. Rick recently left his full time job and high paying salary to make a full time income from blogging with Jim.
How Do Rick and Jim Make Passive Income?
Rick Kessler and Jim Harmer run over 20 blogs (source) a very Popular Youtube channel known as Income School. Project 24 is the course they offer, and it is a very successful blogging program that teaches beginners how to make passive income online by blogging. In 2018 they shared their sources of Income on their YouTube channel and stated they had made over $1M that year.
With over 20 successful passive income blogs under their belts, including Camper Report, Improve Photography, and Dirt Bike Planet, Rich and Jim share their expertise on how to build successful blogs to create multiple streams of passive income in their course Project 24. The course is excellent for beginners looking to make passive income by blogging.
Ricky Kessler and Jim Harmer Give Back
The essence of Project 24 is to give back. Rick and Jim have stated numerous times in their videos that their goal is to help others provide for their families with passive income from blogging. They are both pious men who have young children of their own. They take pleasure in sharing their knowledge with others to help them free their time and enjoy their families. In September 2019, they ran a contest asking entrants to purchase Thai Curry from a local restaurant, and gave the proceeds and food to the Boise Rescue Mission in Idaho.
5. Oprah Gail Winfrey
- Main Source of Passive Income: TV Network
- Net Worth: $2.6 B
- First Started: 1973
The American actress, talk show host, TV producer, philanthropist, and media executive is one of the richest women in the world. Oprah is most famous for the Oprah Winfrey Show which was the highest rated TV show of its kind between 1986 and 2011. Oprah is known as the “Queen of all media” and is said to be the richest African American of the 20th century (source). She is estimated to have a net worth of $2.6 Billion as of June 2019 (source).
Oprah’s Humble Beginnings
After Winfrey’s birth, she was left to spend her first six years living in poverty with her maternal grandmother. They were so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks. Her mother worked as a maid and moved her to an inner-city neighborhood in Milwaukee at the age of six. Her mother went through turmoil as she could not provide for her children. Winfrey stated she was molested at a young age by relatives and a family friend. After suffering years of abuse, she ran away from home in her early teens.
How Does Oprah Make Passive Income?
Oprah still makes money from her talk show years, she has also created a line of healthy sides and soups. She makes income from her investments in real estate, media proprietorship, shows and voice-overs, productions, investments in businesses, speeches and appearances, licencing, multiple best-selling books and a TV network (source).
Oprah Gives Back
Winfrey was the first African Amercian to rank among the 50 most generous Americans and remained on the list from 2004 to 2010. She has given away about $400M to educational causes.
1998-2010: Oprah’s Angel Network raised more than $80M donated to charity
- 2012: Gave over 400 scholarships to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia
- 2013: Donated $12 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
- 2005: Oprah Angel Network Katrina raised more than $11 million for relief efforts and she personally donated $10 million to the cause
6. Tony Robbins
- Main Source of Passive Income: Business
- Net Worth: $500M
- First Started: 1980’s
Anthony Jay Robbins is an American author, philanthropist, and life coach born in California in 1960.
Tony’s Humble Beginnings
Tony’s parents divorced when he was 7. He described his home as “chaotic” and “abusive.” Robbins family was poor and Tony distinctly remembers his father refusing a Thanksgiving dinner that was provided by charity. While growing up, Robbins worked shifts as a handyman to help provide for his younger siblings. At age 17 he left home and never returned. He did not attend college and worked as a janitor to sustain himself.
How Does Tony Robbins Make Passive Income?
The bulk of Tony’s passive income comes from his investments, info-product sales including books, seminars, programs, courses and infomercials (source). He still makes income from courses and seminars he created years ago.
Tony Robbins Gives Back
- 1991: The Tony Robbins Foundation helps youth, homeless, hungry, prisoners, elderly and imprisoned
- 2014: Donated the profits of his books, Money: Master the Game, and Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook to Feeding America to provide meals to people in need. Combined donations fed 100M people in need
- 2016: Donated $1M to send 100 low-income students to medical school
- 2017: 100M more meals were provided through Feeding America to children, families and seniors (source)
7. JK Rowling
- Main Source of Passive Income: Books & Movies
- Net Worth: $92M
- First Started: 1997
JK Rowling is now one of the highest earning authors, although she no longer makes the bulk of her income from books (source). A great portion of her income now comes from theme park revenue, films and theatrical productions of Harry Potter. She receives a share of the income made at Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a chain of themed attractions at Universal Parks & Resorts, from tickets, sponsorships, merchandise and food sales in the establishment (source).
JK’s Humble Beginnings
Joanne Rowling was born 31st, July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire. Several years after graduating University, Rowling saw herself as a failure. In the mid-1990’s, she lost her mother to multiple sclerosis, was jobless, divorced, a signgle mother, diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide. Rowling signed up for welfare, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” (source) Once she had written Harry Potter, it was rejected by 12 publishing houses until it finally got the chance to be read by millions.
How Does JK Rowling Make Passive Income?
While the first book in the Harry Potter series is over 20 years old, the author is still making millions from royalties and various revenue streams from the franchise. She mostly makes money from royalties paid to her from film adaptations of her books as well as from the sales of stage play tickets.
JK Rowling Gives Back
In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, with an annual budget of £5.1M to combat poverty and social inequality supporting children, single parent families, and multiple sclerosis research. She has given a large sum of her wealth away to charity.
8. Casey Neistat
- Main Source of Passive Income: YouTube
- Net Worth: $20M
- First Started: 2001
Casey Neistat, the American Youtuber and vlogger is estimated to have a net worth of $20 million (source). He has an outstanding subscriber base of 11 million YouTube subscribers. Casey Neistat is one of the most popular and famous YouTubers filmmakers online. Originally from Connecticut, Casey started his vlogging career in New York after leaving his family and friends.
Less than two years after buying an iPod, the battery died, prompting him to make a video on Apple’s non-refund policies. iPod’s Dirty Secret criticized Apple for not having a battery replacement program on their iPods. The video went online and more people started to show interest in his videos. That encouraged him and his brother to continue vlogging on YouTube.
Casey’s Humble Beginnings
Casey Neistat was born in Connecticut on March 25, 1981. He dropped out of high school at the age of 17 after his son Owen was born. Between the ages of 17 and 20, Casey lived in a trailer park with his girlfriend of the time and his son. He worked as a dishwasher at a seafood restaurant and a bike messenger for a couple months.
How Does Casey Neistat Make Passive Income?
Casey’s YouTube channel has already generated well over two billion views. Most of Casey’s income is generated from Youtube advertisements as well as various brand deals. Casey is also the co-founder of a multimedia company called Beme which was later acquired by CNN for approximately $25 Million.
Casey Neistat Gives Back
Casey has recorded a number of videos where he provides donations to various causes. He gave $25K to aid victims of the Typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 (source), he raised $300k for the victims of the Las Vegas attack in 2017 (source), he raised money for Red Nose Day (source), and asked his viewers to donate to the relief efforts in Puerto Rico (source).
9. Jeff Bezos
- Main Source of Passive Income: Amazon, eCommerce platform
- Net Worth: $111.7B
- First Started: 1986
With a fortune of $111.7 billion, Jeff Bezos is now the richest person in the world (source). It is said that the Amazon CEO and founder earned approximately $107 million per day in the year 2017. That is hundreds of times for the average American annual income!
Jeff’s Humble Beginnings
Jeff’s mother had him at the age of 17 while she was still in high school, and his father was a bike shop owner. While Bezos was in high school, he worked at McDonald’s during breakfast shifts. In 1994, Bezos created an online bookstore and founded Amazon in his garage. He warned early investors that there was a 70% chance that Amazon would fail or go bankrupt.
How Does Jeff Bezos Make Passive Income?
The Amazon founder is inarguably the wealthiest man on earth. By having an online presence all over the world, he is able to access over a billion potential clients who want to buy goods and products online. He also regularly re-invests money from his company into other businesses. According to him, he liquidates, one billion of Amazon stock every year and injects the funds into his space travel company. The space travel company known as Blue Origin is a long term investment project which he believes will play a very important role for our civilization.
Jeff Bezos Gives Back
Bezos supports philanthropic efforts through direct donations and non-profit projects funded by Bezos Expeditions.
- 2009-2017: Donations to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- 2013: $500,000 to Worldreader
- 2017: $1 million to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- 2018: $33 million donation to TheDream.US
- 2018: Donated $10 million to With Honor
10. Joe Rogan
- Main Source of Passive Income: Podcasting
- First Started: 2009
Joe Rogan makes between 25-50 million USD every year from his podcast (source). He started making podcasts back in 2009 and has steadily grown a loyal fan base of over 100M people that listen to his recordings for a total of over 1.5 Billion times per year. Before he could make any money from his podcasts, he had created hundreds of recordings. Clearly Joe had the patience to grow the “Joe Rogan Experience” show, and it has paid off (source). The Joe Rogan Experience show is among the top shows on iTunes as well as other platforms.
Joe Rogan’s Humble Beginnings
Joseph James Rogan was born on August 11, 1967, in Newark, New Jersey. His grandfather immigrated there from Ireland in the 1940s. His father, Joseph, is a former police officer and his parents divorced when he was five after series of domestic violence. He attended the University of Massachusetts Boston, but found it pointless, and dropped out early (source).
How Does Joe Rogan Make Passive is Joe Rogan’s Income?
Joe Rogan’s income from his podcast and brand deals. His income is so passive that he only has 3 employees working with him. They also upload the episodes to YouTube boosting their income and attracting more listeners. Together, their work generates up to $50million/year (source). His other sources of passive income include appearances on TV shows, in feature films and documentaries, comedy specials and video games.
Joe Rogan Gives Back
Joe donated 100% of the proceeds of a show he animated to the Las Vegas shootings victims in 2017 (source).
11. Ryan Toy Reviews
- Main Source of Passive Income: YouTube
- Net Worth: $30M
- First Started: 2009
Note: Like You and I
This list has so far contained very well known celebrities. We added some less-known, more relatable people who are also making Millions from passive income.
According to Forbes, the highest earning YouTuber is Ryan of Ryan ToysReview. The seven year old boy makes money off Youtube by reviewing toys online with the help of his family. The family run Youtube channel generated approximately $22M dollars pre-tax in the period between June 2017 and June 2018 which was an increase from 11 million dollars from the previous year (source).
Ryan’s Humble Beginnings
Ryan is a kid. That’s a humble enough beginning.
How Does Ryan Toy Reviews Makes Passive Income?
The Youtube Channel began started out slowly, when the then four year old Ryan, who loved watching toy reviews, asked his parents why he could not do toy reviews. In July 2015, his review video went viral and gained 982M views. The video featured Ryan opening and reviewing a container of over 100 toys from Pixar’s Car’s series (source). The young YouTuber recently signed a deal with Walmart to sell a line of toys called Ryan’s World. The line of toys are sold exclusively in Walmart’s website and in over 2500 US stores. In total, the channel has approximately 26 billion views with a follower base of 17 million fans.
Out of the $22 million, about $1 million is generated from small advertisements that are featured at the start of every video. The rest of the income is made from sponsored posts. Most of the toys featured in his reviews can sell out almost instantly hence raising his income. His sisters haven’t been left out either and have joined him to create a channel called Ryan’s Family Review. The family runs six high earning YouTube channels (source).
Ryan Gives Back
Most of the toys they review are given away to charity (source).
Now Read This!
Passive income may be easily mistaken to mean that one makes money while doing utterly nothing. It is important to keep in mind that there can be a point where things start to roll, but getting there can take years of dedication and effort. After all, nobody in a rags to riches situation ever really made money from doing absolutely nothing.
You may also have noticed that these people in this article are still active today. While the people in this article no longer actively trade their time for a fixed income, they still play a very active role in vision and execution of their businesses to maintain the health of their passive income sources. Even though they are making a decent income, or more than what one person may ever need in a lifetime, they are still contributing to society to share, teach and give back.
That’s because money isn’t everything. Even if you had millions in your pockets and spent years doing nothing, hanging out on beaches soaking up the sun – the void would return. An entire chapter is dedicated to this in the Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. In this chapter, he covers depression from social isolation and dealing with existential questions. His answers to these questions include continually learning and philanthropy (giving back, teaching, improving the lives of others). And that’s exactly what the people on this list are doing.
“There are 300 million ways to do it. Find what works for you!”
How can I make millions passively? All the passive ideas we highlighted above like blogging, podcasting, ecommerce, YouTube channels etc. can make you millions – but you need to execute the work, you need to have patience, skill, motivation and dedication. Most millionaires started off from humble beginnings but worked hard to achieve their current status.
How do I know the Ideal Passive Income Business Idea for me? There is no ‘ideal passive income idea.’ It all depends on what you would like to do, what you are able to do, and what you can do. Most of the ideas we have highlighted are easy to start and run since they are beginner-friendly.
Can you Combine Passive Income Ideas? Yes, you can combine passive income ideas to boost your passive income. For example, you can run an ATM and Vending Machine business or food and ice cream truck business together. You could also have a monetized blog and a YouTube channel. If you have the capital or the time to start and run two ideas together, the better! You make more income that is passive while diversifying your income sources.
How can you become a millionaire from passive income? There are many passive income ideas like podcasting, ecommerce, eBooks, blogging, YouTubing etc, that have turned ordinary people into some of the wealthiest in the world. One major factor of making such huge amounts of money (according to most of these millionaires and billionaires) is hard work, and patience (source).