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Ask HN: What was your best passive income in 2020?
48 points by ankushio 72 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments
Any side projects, Game, OSS, Hacks.

I have made a few iOS apps (Cone[0] and Unwind[1]) which generate enough to pay my bills.

[0]: https://cone.app

[1]: https://unwind.to

Cone is one of the ideas where you think "How did I not think of that?" Awesome, congratulations!

Curious to know what kind of marketing efforts you took for these if any? Any marketing budget to speak of?

They look like really well done apps, congrats on (kind of) exiting the rat race!

Cone was on Apple's Developer Spotlight recently[1,2], and was covered in other news subsequently[3]. Interesting to read the original Show HN from 2017[4].

[1]: https://developer.apple.com/news/?id=1al00dn0

[2]: https://apps.apple.com/in/story/id1556285704

[3]: https://thehardcopy.co/the-indian-app-featured-at-apples-wwd...

[4]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14254357

Low cost index funds provided a 16% return in 2020 and require nearly zero effort.

This, 100%. No hustle, no gimmicks, just the same passive investing advice we've known for like thirty years now.

If you're in your twenties and thirties, it is absolutely worth scrimping and saving to put as much as possible into a retirement account that tracks the S&P 500, or the worldwide stock market, because this is the single surest way for "normal" people to retire rich.

There are a lot of people who think that returns are going to be lower going forward due to 1) reduced productivity, 2) more people investing with too much liquidity looking for a home, and 3) high starting valuations.

I don't have much of a better idea tbh but I'm always seeking alternative investments.

That's the primary reason I mention a total-world fund. A lot of people expect the US to be flat for the next few years, with a corresponding uptick in the world market.

Can you recommend a total world fund?

VTWAX is the gold standard:


If you don't want to dump $3K in one go, there's VT:


This is not passive income. This is asset appreciation.

Dividends or rent collection qualify as passive income.

Can you explain why you differentiate the two (price changes vs dividends)? AFAIU it’s really just that you have to instruct one to be sold to realize it and the other just shows up in your account, but the overall returns, tax implications, and such are basically the same.

Not sure what jurisdiction you're in, but the tax implications are not 'basically the same' here in the UK.

Capital gains are taxed at 20% and can be offset against personal losses, whereas dividend income is typically taxed at 32.5 - 38%, and that's after the company issuing the dividend already paid corporation tax of 19% on their end.

According to this source [0], the first £2000 of dividend income per year are tax free. So depending on how much dividend income you have, the rates could be higher or lower than in the US (who has no such exception, but lower rates on dividends for stocks held over a year).

[0] https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-dividends

The US. Where I believe cap gains taxes apply to both cap gains and dividends. Which honestly makes sense me — either you “cash out” individually or the company does it for you (to pay the dividend).

From what you say, dividends seem like a negative thing taxes-wise, so why would any company opt pay them out? I’m sure there’s some intricacy there.

That's why accumulating index funds are better option.

In the UK it doesn't matter. Even dividends paid inside an accumulating fund or ETF are still considered income and, if held outside of a tax sheltered account, you're supposed to (somehow) figure out how much income tax to pay and declare it.

Most people get away with doing this because they use tax sheltered accounts, or the amount would be below their tax-free allowance.

Ref: "Accumulation units – the income tax loophole that never was" - https://monevator.com/income-tax-on-accumulation-unit/

The most important reason: PAPER PROFITS ARE NOT REAL PROFITS.

More technical reasons follow.

The risk profile is very different. Rents, dividends, and interest payments all have some notion of a guaranteed payment. Your risk is primarily whether your counter party will be able to honor that agreement. This is why bond investing is often called "fixed income" because you know ahead of time how much money you'll make.

Asset appreciation has immense market risk. You need to find a buyer willing to pay more for what you paid for it. In the case of companies the economic risk are higher too: if the companies cashflows dwindle or debt increases the shares are fundamentally worth less.

This is why there are often tax distinctions between guaranteed income streams and capital investments: in theory, a government wants to encourage investment in risk and discourage printing guaranteed monthly checks. This does create a regulatory arbitrage, however, where companies can buy fixed amounts of their own stocks to guarantee some amount of appreciation in lieu of a dividend.

These days, with stock buybacks, a portion of stock price increases are actually dividends.

unfortunately everything that is above 2% interest in our zero yield environment takes some risk. However I agree.

Best for me is EU crowd funding sites for real estate. Typical yield is 12-20%. So called "Hard money". Banks in europe don't touch this after the 80s blow ups.

Nexo - popular in the crypto world takes the funds and puts them there (but keeps 2-3%) as well as payday loans for eastern europeans.

It's effectively the same.

It's only income if you sell, at which point it's no longer passive, right? Otherwise it's unrealized gains and not income.

Setting up a passive income by regularly selling stocks clearly qualifies. Unrealized gains are more questionable, but you don’t have to realize gains from other forms of passive income like rental income either.

It's really not. Let's say, thanks to your passive investment growth, you can spend 3% of your capital every year and never run out

This means $100/mo of recurring, passive income would take $40K in the bank to replace.

Even a small passive income is worth huge amounts.

They do require starting capital which the asker may or may not have.

Still, it is a good option if your finances allow.

Any type of passive income is generated by capital which you have to somehow acquire, typically through labor. For example, you can use your labor to create a game. Or you can sell your labor and buy stocks in a gaming company.

For 2020 that looks even low. For reference QQQ almost hit 50%.

While not entirely passive, I developed a SaaS[0] to scratch my own itch. As a freelancer I often use Asana[1] with clients but one serious missing feature is easy referable task IDs like Jira. (e.g. HN-123) Furthermore, having git commit messages as notifications in your tasks is also a really nice addition. So, meet Astogi[0]. Currently it isn't replacing my freelancing (yet) but it generates a small decent income which is for a big part passive.

[0]: https://astogi.com

[1]: https://asana.com

My best passive income is probably my day job, my investments require a lot more focus and time.

Lol, guys, it's a joke.. kinda.

How is a day job passive income?

Maybe he outsourced his job to foreign workers and watches cat videos all day like this dude-


I think they are really saying that because of their dayjob, they can invest - and then that generates passive income

Depends on the intensity-level one puts in their 9 to 5.

I think that it allows him to invest into passive index funds (no active trading) which hopefully appreciate over time.

Probably by reading HN all day ;)

Meme stocks. Was up 100% for the year but settled down to 45%. Will continue memeing until the end of the year. Meme profits got rolled into more legit stocks (usually just to hold profits with a possibility of some upside until I can buy a good dip), but yeah, mostly stuck to trends and bets, no real investing.

Also lost money, but I memed my way out of it somehow.

A little art game I built for iOS and Android: https://inspiral.nathanfriend.io/

(It's the mobile version of https://nathanfriend.io/inspiral-web/)

Google was up about 30%. I made most of my money by procrastinating about diversifying.

(I believe in diversifying for the usual reasons and sometimes do it, but usually regret it in retrospect. Maybe someday I won’t regret it.)

It looks like I will regret diversifying again this year.

I run and develop the trailer booking website for my fathers company. I earn based on the number of bookings. For some reason (possibly COVID) a lot of people moved so it was a very busy year, which means I got a nice little side income.

I'm about £6 up from crypto

Ethereum DeFi yield farming. Will be migrating funds to ETH staking soon for a nicely appreciating yield-bearing asset. Tips and MEV rewards will be the icing on the cake.

A mobile game I built in a few months last year: (Android) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.reckoning.... (iOS, newly released) https://apps.apple.com/us/app/sandbox-city/id1512598054

Brings in around 400 euros a month from ads and in-app purchase revenue.

I have talent in dev/code, but didn't use any of it. 2x Corona, short-time work, depression.. :(

I'm fully open for any suggestions.

It's not passive: I started investing into stocks and sold almost all for about 5% profit in total. I think many won't like it, but I used that money and invested into different cryptocurrencies. I ended up with about twice my total investment and on some days I earned more per day, than monthly with my dayjob. The goldrush wasn't forever though, because after may I'm back to my initial investment.

May I ask why you perceive a cryptocurrency as an 'investment'?

Sure, that's a legitimate question and I appreciate it. Important background: I'm a very early adopter of technologies and I'm genuinely curious.

First the terminology I used is wrong, it's not an investment, it's a mere speculation. Because the outcome is totally in the air. Right now there is not enough developer saturation in cryptocurrencies, which in my opinion is a crucial driver of industrial adoption. This may change, when the "safe/verified" development of smart-contracts and blockchain interoperability becomes easy for most developers. Transaction costs are a sign of technical debt. So there is no doubt that there will be many hardforks coming.

Context: My Professor assigned me the study of "Consensus Algorithms" and the implementation of these in 2009. That made me go into a very deep rabbit hole. And I stumbled over many technologies enabling cryptocurrencies, but came out at the book he was currently reading about "Cellular Automata". That made me awe nature and it's ingenuity.

I have wrongly been anti-commercial most of my life, that's why I intentionally missed bitcoin in 2010. Regardless of all the hype it's of no industrial use at the moment as long as there aren't good developers enabling it's application in the industry and at scale.

I unfortunately didn't have had a circle of people who invest, rather more those who sit at the bottom of the barrel. Waking up and taking my own finances serious took way too long.

Crypto is a speculation even though I invested almost all of my assets into it (€28k). I'm okay losing it, as long as I'm able to find a good job paying at least 2.7k net/month, which allows me to diversify my invests into less speculative assets.

I wrote a weird psychedelic road novel (my girlfriend describes it as The X-Files meets Big Lebowski) It makes me a couple bucks a day.

The Fact of the Moon Is Stranger Than Most Dreams https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095L3L4Z1/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_...

I made https://extensionpay.com, a service to let browser extension developers easily take payments for their extensions.

But I feel like making a SaaS isn't really passive income — it's flywheel income. Takes a lot of up-front work to get it spinning and then requires a little effort here and there to keep it going.

Selling few delivery plugins for woocommerce/prestashop was a really nice idea at the time which did not really work that much before pandemic (for ex https://codecanyon.net/item/stuart-for-woocommerce/25673890)

Do you mean there’s an increase in sales for the plugins after the pandemic?

Domain names, sales and traffic (PPC).

Traffic (PPC): Approximately US$ 10K a month. You have to have names that have type in traffic.

Sales: Not truly passive as we do reply to inbound inquiries and manage a sales pipeline. It's highly lucrative if you have .Com domains that businesses want.

Samurai sudoku https://samurai-sudoku.com

9x9 hard sudoku puzzles https://extremesudoku.info/hard

Twitch, £2k this month. I'm planning to quit my job actually

How's that passive? Genuinely curious.

it started with 1h or 2h getting 0, literally, it raised to £20 month after several weeks... and here we go.

How do you make money on twitch? Programming streams?

Gaming most of the time but some times I do some personal talks/Q&A. It took me over 2 years to get here, so it's not easy.


btw, its 2021.

I'm guessing he is asking now because a lot of people have recently worked out their 2020 incomes statementes for tax purposes.

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