Gone are the days when you had to be a subject matter expert; now, everyone and their grandmothers can give you advice on personal finance.
I know I am doing the same thing as many others — using a title that has lost its actual value and has become a clickbait of sorts. Let me walk you through the reasons I think this is the case.
For clarity, I am not one of those people who have lost trust in the global financial system; I am not a hermit who does not believe in the financial system at all; neither am I a person who has no ambition to be rich. On the contrary, I am one of those who believe in Ikigai (translates roughly as "the happiness of always being busy"). I am one of those who are willing to put in work for the income that might become mine in the future — working at a full-time corporate role, making YouTube content, writing articles, managing social media, etc. These are all the things I have done in the last 180 days. Let me be brutal about my work ethic; I have struggled, to say the least, to get to the elusive passive income. But that is a story for another day.
Coming back to the topic, search for the term "passive income" on any search engine, and you will find a generic definition of an income that you gain without "actively" participating in the work behind it.
A growing number of interested parties
A quick Google Trends search will show you that the term "passive income" has exploded in recent years. The graph shows the interest in "passive income” in the last five years; it has been consistently on the rising trend, with the massive jump in 2020 and beyond. With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the financial systems across the world, it is understandable that people would start looking at opportunities that can make them additional income. I don't see a world that will ever go back to a pre-pandemic situation, and the number of interested parties in this term would continuously increase with time.
More interested parties = More content-hungry people
As the concept of passive income exploded, so did the content that revolved around it. You will see creators make content about passive income strategies on blogs, videos, Instagram Reels, and TikToks. No platform is sacred enough as we speak. You will find all types of content on these platforms, so why not allow everyone to share their two cents on passive income. Gone are the days when you had to be a subject matter expert to talk about a particular area; now everyone and their grandmothers can give you advice on "how to be a millionaire before turning 20".
I am not saying the content is all bad. I, myself, have learned so much about it from Youtube over the years. But I will say most of it is generally the same run-of-the-mill ideas churned out, just for the sake of it.
The vicious cycle
I am not salty about the number of content creators that have jumped on the bandwagon of using passive income to increase views, subscribers, and revenue. I am happy for them. There are tons of articles on Medium that will give you five, ten, or even twenty ways to earn passive income in the year 2022. The increase in the number of articles on this topic clearly shows that they attract readers. People flock to them in the assumption of getting one more bright idea that they can fit in their busy schedules.
My problem starts when these articles and videos continue to paint the picture of passive income as something that can be availed without much effort. This so-called content will tell you that you can start affiliate marketing or dropshipping business or course creation within 24 hours from your couch, and you will be all set for earning passively for life. It is not the case. The work still has to be done.
- You still have to develop a following and work hard to sell something to your followers to earn a respectable amount in affiliate marketing.
- You still have to learn the concept of running a business, managing your store, product choice, product development, supplier and customer management, and whatnot for your dropshipping business to be even remotely successful.
- You still have to put in time and effort to be so good at something that you can make a course about it and add your perspective to it.
Even after these income streams start to give a return, you will continue to spend time managing these and keeping the inflows consistent.
The vicious cycle will continue. People will be more interested in this topic, content creators will continue to use it to make their content and limit the whole concept of financial independence to earning passive income alone. People will fall into the trap that it is all easy to achieve. They will fail and search for the term more. Content creators will continue to make more of the same. The vicious cycle will continue.
Rounding everything up
Yes, passive income is a legitimate way of increasing your income. Yes, once it is appropriately set up, you can manage the same inflow at a relatively lower level of effort. Yes, it can make you a millionaire if all goes well. No, it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. No, you will still have to make a lot of effort to set it up and get it running.
But I think that given the considerable interest in this concept, we will continue seeing people write generic stuff on passive income. They will continue to limit financial independence to the mere idea of earning passive income. The vicious cycle will continue, and we all will continue to see articles like "top 5 ways of earning passive income" in our Medium feed.
I’m Armaghan Tanveer, a numbers guy by profession, and a romantic by heart. I write about everything that I find interesting, including productivity, investments, passive income, and personal experiences. If you like what I do, you can buy me a coffee ☕️ here.