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Can you imagine a life where you don’t have to work every day? Instead of needing to work, you could work because you wanted to, or you could just choose not to work.

Conventional wisdom tells you the path you’re supposed to live looks like this:

  1. Go to college.
  1. Get a good job.
  1. Get married.
  1. Take out a loan for school, your wedding, a car, furniture and a house.
  1. Work hard for 30-plus years to pay off all the debt you accumulated.
  1. Maybe you’ll have enough to retire, and then again, maybe not.

The truth is that there is another way to live. You don’t have to go the traditional route. After all, you’re the one in control of your life. You can do anything you want.

Isn’t that a freeing thought? To know you’re in the driver’s seat of your own life? For me, it is.

One thing that has been on my mind a lot, and that I have begun to work toward, is creating passive income so my limited time isn’t constantly being exchanged for money.

And because I’ve always had a fascination with passive income, I’ve been drilling down on it lately and not only learning more, but also taking action.

I think most people could happily live on $50,000 per year (provided they had no debt), so I thought it would be a good idea to explore some ways to make $50,000 per year without working.

How This Works: Front Load Your Life

Front loading your life is working hard now so you don’t have to work so hard later.

It’s kind of like making a snowball. At first, you’re packing the snow and rolling the ball around to make it bigger. After a little work, your ball starts to roll down a hill and gets bigger and bigger and bigger all on its own.

At this point, the snowball’s momentum starts to work in your favor.

That’s what front loading is all about. That, my friends, is exactly how you can earn $50,000 per year without working.

You have to work hard up front, and in anywhere from 10 to 30 years (depending on how much you invest and how smart you are about the way you invest), you could earn a good amount of passive income.

Here are just a few ideas for earning $50,000 per year without working.

Own 10 Rental Properties  

Net: $4,200 per month

Ten rental properties that provided you a net income of $4,200 per month — after figuring in things like vacancies, maintenance, repairs, property management, taxes and insurance — would bring in $50,400 per year.

Depending on the locations and types of properties you have, it may take more or fewer properties for you to reach that $50,000 per year mark.

One successful real estate investor I’ve enjoyed learning from is Paula Pant. Paula has a total of seven rental units that net her around $80,000 per year.

If you’re wondering what to look for in rental properties, here’s an excellent post from Paula on why she purchased one rental property. It includes how she evaluated the neighborhood and the math she uses to figure out whether a particular rental is a good investment.

If rental properties are something you’d like to get into, I’d highly suggest you start doing research now. Real estate is something that has always interested me, and from my research it seems like everyone has different goals and different criteria for how they choose their investments.

That means you’ll need to create your own path and consider your risk tolerance to reach your particular goals.

Invest $1.25 Million in Dividend Stocks

Net: $50,000 per year

This particular method appears, at first glance, a little harder to achieve than the rental property scenario, but stick with me, please. These methods are actually very similar. With both, you’re buying an asset that provides you cash flow.

Dividend stocks are great because, while they pay dividends, they can also appreciate (or depreciate) in value. This means you’ll still get to take advantage of compound interest on the value of the stock. Plus, you can reinvest your dividends until you reach your desired amount.

The cool thing about dividend stocks is when you need the dividend checks to live off of, you don’t have to touch the underlying assets. In other words, you don’t have to sell your stocks to get money. The value you have in stocks still has the chance to compound and grow without you ever adding anything else to it!

And because you get to take advantage of compound interest and can reinvest your dividends while growing your nest egg, you’re not actually contributing that full $1.25 million.

Build a Business, and Outsource the Work

Net: $4,200 a month

I don’t want to sound all “4-Hour Workweek” here, but outsourcing a business is possible.

My dad owns three businesses: two department stores and one greenhouse. He works at one of these businesses.

The other two are outsourced to different family members. There are also managers for different departments and, of course, employees.

There’s simply no way that he could run all three businesses by himself. Quite frankly, he doesn’t want to.

I’ve tried copying this method in my own online business, and so far am headed in the right direction.

For instance, there are a couple parts to my businesses. First, there’s freelancing. Freelancing is very much active and requires my direct involvement. I can’t hand this off to other people.

The other side is blogging. My own blog generates around $2,500 to $3,000 per month and I normally spend around five to seven hours a week on it.

I used to spend much more time on it, until I started to outsource. I hired out social media and brought on a writer to help with the workload. My expenses rarely exceed $500 per month.

This means I’m now netting around $2,000 to $2,500 per month from a blog I enjoy running while only spending 20 to 28 hours per month on it. That’s around $75 to $100 per hour.

While it’s not completely passive, it’s headed in the right direction and sure beats my old day job that paid $11.50 per hour.

It is completely possible for you to build a business in any area you enjoy and then outsource once you get systems in place. This doesn’t happen without a bunch of initial hard work, though — it’s all about front loading.

This post originally appeared on The College Investor. The College Investor helps millennials get out of student loan debt, earn more money, start investing and build real wealth.

A few years ago, I was struggling. I was dealing with massive student-loan debt and cobbling together work on a part-time basis.

I’ve always lived on a pretty minimal budget, but this was the definition of a “bare bones” budget. Travel? Out of the question. I didn’t even see my parents for Christmas. I stopped going to restaurants and every purchase consumed me with anxiety.

But even though I scaled back on everything, I still didn’t have enough money to pay for my student loans or live a reasonably relaxed life.

I realized my problem wasn’t that I was an excessive spender or that I was super frivolous with my money. It was that I wasn’t earning enough. Making $12 per hour at the time and having close to $60,000 in debt wasn’t really working out for me.

I knew I had to make more money. But how? I discovered there are a lot of ways to increase your income. Here’s I did it and how you can too:

1. Pick Up Gigs on the Side

Although I was working part time, I knew it wasn’t enough to get where I wanted to go. I began a serious side hustle to make up for the lack of hours and income.

I perused Craigslist and TaskRabbit. I found gigs as an event helper for the holidays. I greeted people at parties. I cleaned up after parties. I took people’s coats. I quickly found out that the holidays are a ripe time to make extra money. I gave it my everything, even though they were pretty simple tasks.

I communicated and showed up on time. You won’t believe how doing these two small things will set you apart from other side hustlers. Because of that, I landed more gigs.

Now, every holiday season I work for the same family and get paid $20 per hour helping set up their holiday party. Another gig turned into a part-time job working with a great community I’m happy to be a part of.

I even looked for ways to make money doing things I normally do anyway. For example, I use Swagbucks when searching the Internet and make a few extra dollars a month. It adds up over time and Swagbucks even offers bonuses just for signing up.

Working gigs on the side can open up so many doors. If you’d told me three years ago that taking people’s coats at a party would turn into something else, I would’ve laughed. But you never know where a gig will take you. If nothing else, it’s a great way to meet new people and make extra income to help pay off debt, save, invest and more.

Need some ideas? Check out more than 50 side hustle ideas to get started.

2. Work Overtime

If you work at a job that offers overtime, always say “yes” to more work.

Overtime can help boost your income quickly, doing the same job you’d do anyway -- just at a different time. Is your job offering more work on a holiday? Say yes. Working more hours to help out with a project? Say yes.

I’m not saying that you should have no personal life, but making yourself available and doing more work can be an easy way to get overtime -- which is a great way to make more money.

3. Start Freelancing With Your Skills

Once I had thoroughly exploited the side hustle scene, I thought it was time to move on to something similar, but a little different.

I had already hustled so much and worked as a house cleaner, brand ambassador, event helper, taste tester, pet sitter and more. I was looking for something I could do a little more long term that would engage more of my skills and talents.

So I started to freelance. I began writing for others and I quickly realized how addicting it was. I enjoy writing and telling stories and getting people inspired about money.

I began freelancing by doing two things:

  • Being persistent. I mentioned I was looking for work for a good six months before I saw results. I also emailed every single person I admired and asked for their advice. You’d be amazed how willing people are to dole out advice and help you along your journey.
  • Using my network. There’s a saying that your network is your net worth and for me it’s so true. I have a tight-knit group of friends and bloggers here in Portland and I’ve pretty much worked for all of them in some aspect. Why? Because I’ve built a genuine relationship with them, have expressed interest in what I want and shown my value.

Don’t be afraid to ask for and tell people what you want! Nobody is a mind reader, so it behooves you to be direct.

Bold action and clear language have helped me move forward -- so much so, that I quit my job almost a year ago to freelance full time. I have zero regrets and am now making much more than I did at my old nonprofit job.

If you want to start freelancing, I recommend creating a website and blog, and starting with your network first. Job boards can be low-paying and competitive. The best thing you can do is to build your reputation and your brand.

4. Sell Your Stuff

Many of us are sitting on years and years worth of stuff we keep, even though we don’t use it anymore. But the fact is, if you’re not using it anymore, it is simply taking up space.

Why not turn your stuff into extra cash? Sell your old cell phones on sites like SellCell. Bring your old CDs and books to local stores and get cash. Host a garage sale. Sell on eBay or Craigslist.

I actually have one friend who picks up perfectly good “junk” on the side of the road and sells it on eBay. Talk about a nice profit margin!

If you haven’t used your items for six months or more, let go and make some extra cash.

5. Take Advantage of the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy revolutionizes the way people make money and the way consumers have access to services. It takes out the middleman and puts consumers together with their community, so both can benefit.

To make more money with the sharing economy:

Now more than ever, you can make money off your possessions and create a lucrative side business.

6. Adjust Your Tax Withholdings

One of the simplest ways you can give yourself a boost of income is by adjusting your tax withholding. Many people enjoy getting a tax refund once a year, but let’s face it: It’s hard to do the right thing when you get a lump sum of money.

By adjusting your withholding, you’ll see more money on your paycheck now so you can pay off debt and save. You can even grow that money through investments or a savings account. Why wait to get a “bonus” once a year?

If you have any questions, discuss them with a tax professional.

7. Increase Your Rates or Negotiate a Raise

I never used to negotiate in my jobs. I was simply too happy to have a job and didn’t want to rock the boat. Now I realize I missed out on thousands of dollars in extra income by not negotiating.

Now that I’ve been a full-time freelancer for almost a year, I’ve learned the hard way how to negotiate. After working too many low-paying gigs, I’ve learned how to comfortably ask for more.

It’s all about knowing your value and being confident. Confidence is half the battle. I’d even say that confidence is just as important as talent.

If you have a job, make sure you’re negotiating regularly. If you’re a freelancer or a side hustler, raise your rates from time to time. After you prove your value and build a client base, there’s no reason to continue working for low amounts.

It’s easy to get comfortable, but you should always challenge yourself and work hard to make more.

Whether you’re struggling to pay your bills or just looking for ways to make even more money, you can use these tips to get started. Making more money can expedite your debt repayment process or completely overhaul your savings strategy.

Though I love being frugal and saving money where I can, there’s still a finite amount I can save. Conversely, my income is essentially limitless -- it all just depends on how much work I can do in a day and how I price my services.

By using these strategies, I went from struggling and making $12 per hour three years ago to now making close to $50,000 a year. Anyone can make more money if they really want to.

Your Turn: What strategies have you used to make more money?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

This post originally appeared on The College Investor. The College Investor helps millennials get out of student loan debt, earn more money, start investing and build real wealth.

New graduates are leaving the bubble of college behind and entering the workforce to start their careers. It’s an exciting and stressful time — and one that holds a lot of importance.

It’s that first job that can set the stage for the rest of their lives and provide much needed experience for their careers. It can also set the scale for how much they will earn over their lifetimes. Settling for a low salary or choosing not to negotiate can cost workers thousands of dollars over the course of their careers. Yet, it seems that the majority of new graduates aren’t negotiating and potentially leaving money on the table.

A recent survey by NerdWallet and Looksharp states that only 38% of new graduates negotiated with their employers after receiving an employment offer.

That means that more than half of new graduates aren’t negotiating and are just accepting the salary given to them.

The real kicker? Out of all of the employers that were surveyed, 76% of them said that employees who negotiated appeared confident for doing so. Not only that, but three-quarters of employers also said they had room to negotiate and increase salaries by 5-10%.

The lesson here, is that by negotiating you could appear confident and also increase your salary up to 10% right off the bat. Are you ready to earn more money?

The Cost of Not Negotiating

Are you leaving money on the table? Let’s say that you get offered an entry-level job at $30,000. That’s a very modest salary and depending on where you live, it could be a struggle (though I’ve lived in LA on that salary — tough, but doable).

If you negotiated a 5 to 10% increase, you could increase your salary by $1,500 to $3,000. While that might not seem like that much money, over time it adds up.

Using a $3,000 raise, you can:

  • Shave off months of your student loan repayment
  • Build a basic emergency fund
  • Start a Roth IRA
  • If you invest $3,000 and don’t touch it for 40 years, given an 8% return, you will have $65,173.56

This is what is at stake here if you don’t negotiate your salary.

Why Don’t We Negotiate?

I have a terrible confession to make. I only started negotiating once I became self-employed. I worked as an employee for nearly a decade and never once asked for more money. Why?

I was scared. I was happy to have a job. It was during the recession and I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I made excuses because I only worked at nonprofits and was convinced they didn’t have any extra money.

Now, I am kicking myself that I lost out on precious funds because I didn’t ask for more.

Here’s the thing. When an employer is offering you a job, they have already made the mental decision that you are the right candidate. The worst thing they could say is no. It is highly unlikely that they would renege on their job offer. So, really what do you have to lose?

Interestingly enough, I finally learned how to ask for what I want and negotiate now that I am self-employed. Being my own boss was the kick in the pants I needed to really step up and learn how to negotiate.

But if you are a new graduate, or even if you have already been working for a few years, it’s crucial that you negotiate and ask for more. You don’t know until you ask, and asking is powerful!

How to Negotiate

Now you know the cost of not negotiating and some of the reasons why people don’t. Most of it comes from fear. The only way to work through fear is to actually move through it. So, how do you negotiate?

Well, it’s a multi-step process and one you should start today!

Start Researching

The first step in preparing to negotiate is to do your research. Negotiating is a finely crafted skill that also has real numbers to back it up. You can’t just negotiate any rate you want for the job you have. It’s important to know what people in your geographic area and your field are making.

For example, a marketing manager in New York City will make a different salary than a marketing manager somewhere in the midwest. Cost of living does affect salary, so that is something to consider.

Start by looking at Payscale and Glassdoor to get an idea of salary ranges in your field as well as geographic area. This is helpful so that you don’t overshoot your salary and so that you don’t completely undersell yourself as well.

If you have specialized skills and services, then consider going for the top range salary. You want to value yourself and what you are worth! If you know a second language or have unique technical skills, then it’s possible you can command more.

Practice

After you have done your research, begin to practice, practice, practice! You’ll want to practice your negotiation skills with friends, family, in the mirror — and if you want to go an extra step, practice on camera (you don’t have to show anyone!).

Practicing can help you smooth out any rough edges in your approach. It can also help you test what works and what doesn’t work.

You’ll want to practice various scenarios:

  • What will you do if they say yes?
  • What will you do if they say no?
  • How will you react if they want to negotiate and compromise?

During the practice sessions, it’s important to know what your minimum is. If they offer you a job at $30,000, but your minimum is $35,000, are you willing to walk away? You don’t want to settle for less or you will risk being resentful of a job that you don’t really want to be at.

When preparing to negotiate, know your minimum, middle ground and high point for your desired salary. This will help you be able to dictate a plan of action depending on your prospective employer’s response.

It’s key to practice and prepare for a variety of situations so that you are not caught off guard.

Cultivate Your Tools and Strategies

In addition to practicing and preparing, you’ll want to cultivate a box of tools and resources to help you along with negotiations.

Personally, I believe Ramit Sethi is one of the best in the field. His Briefcase Technique has helped land him and many of his students thousands of dollars in raises.

The Briefcase Technique can help set you apart from other candidates and showcase your talents. Not only that, it can truly show why you are the best candidate as it shows that you are a problem solver.

When your employer is about to offer you a job, open your briefcase and take out a proposal of all your suggestions of how to improve the company. Doing this shows that you have studied up and done your research on the company and that you are forward-thinking and ready to solve problems.

Job candidates can often talk too much about themselves, but what employers really want is someone that can solve problems and take things off their plates. How will you make your employer’s life easier? How will you add to the company culture and drive the company forward? Answering these questions and illustrating your ideas of how you will improve the company can help you command a higher salary.

In addition the Briefcase Technique, check out this comprehensive guide on salary negotiation.

Know Your Scripts

So, you have been offered a job and they offer you a starting salary. Whether you like the salary or not, it’s time to negotiate! If you are unhappy with the offer, this is a must, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for more even if you are comfortable with the salary.

You can start by saying “I am so excited about this opportunity and appreciate your offer. Given my skills and abilities, I was hoping for $35,000 for this position. Can we look at a starting salary of $35,000?”

It’s key to be polite, but also stand your ground. If they say yes, you can say, “Great, thanks so much for this opportunity. I look forward to growing with the company!”

If they say no, will you walk away or negotiate further? You can say, “Is there a number in between that we could settle on?”

While it may seem like your employer holds all the cards, remember they are choosing you and think you are the best fit. It doesn’t hurt to ask and negotiate. Remember, the majority of employers think you appear confident for doing so!

So whether you are a new graduate or have been in the workforce, it’s time to negotiate. If you don’t, you could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table, which ultimately can set you back financially.

Using the additional funds, you can pay down debt or use it to invest. Think about it this way. Can you afford to not negotiate?

Your Turn: What are your favorite negotiation strategies? How have they worked for you?

This post originally appeared on The College Investor. The College Investor helps millennials get out of student loan debt, earn more money, start investing and build real wealth.