Three Types of Income by Robert Kiyosaki

Three Types of Income

Why knowing the differences between the three types of income will increase your financial IQ.

My rich dad spent a lot of time playing Monopoly® with his son, Mike, and I when we were children. We would play for hours exchanging four green houses for one red hotel. Buried in that simple formula is a powerful lesson, a lesson that has served me well throughout my adult life.

That was one of the first, and most important, lessons in financial education I ever learned: the value of cash flow.

Monopoly® is a game that teaches you how to create positive cash flow. You purchase a property and collect rents when someone lands on your property. In order to make money, much like in real life, you improve the value of your properties and eventually sell them. When you move on from single-family homes (green houses) and into larger properties like duplexes, 4-plexes, and, eventually, apartment complexes (red hotels), you increase your cash flow.

Thankfully, I learned about cash flow early at an early age by playing that game. Unfortunately for most people, however, it’s a lesson they never learn.

It’s important to understand that following the lessons from my rich dad, and by playing the game of Monopoly, has allowed me to make money differently than someone who follows traditional advice. Most people are given advice like to go to school, get a safe secure job, invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

It’s by earning money through the non-traditional means you’re going to learn about here that I went on to become a multi-millionaire.

And one of the key reasons I became wealthy is because I understand the three different types of income.

The Three Types of Income

1. Earned income

If you have a job and receive a paycheck, you make your money through earned income.

To reference the CASHFLOW® Quadrant, Es and Ss, those on the left-side of the quadrant, make money through earned income.

To be financially free, you must move to the right side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant.

When you earn money through a paycheck, you are exchanging time for money. For example, when you work as an employee as a web designer, a grocery store cashier, or a police officer, you are getting paid a predetermined amount of money (X) to do that job for a certain amount of time (Y). Here in the United States, the amount of money is negotiated between the employee and employer and the amount of time required for a full-time employee is forty hours per week.

For many people who make their money through earned income, it’s often just enough money to cover basic monthly expenses, leaving little to no money left to invest. For most Es and Ss the saying, “Living paycheck to paycheck,” explains their status.

If they want to make more money, they need to work more hours at their full-time job or through a part-time job or freelancer.

2. Portfolio income

Where earned income is acquired by exchanging time for money, portfolio income is made through capital gains.

As an example, when someone buys stock in a corporation at a given price, they plan on selling that same stock at a higher price in the future. So, if they buy a stock at $10 today, and the price goes up to $40 when they sell that stock, they make $30 in capital gains. That capital gains is their profit.

This is how stock traders traditionally make their money. They invest money in stocks they feel are undervalued now with the expectation that when the prices rises they can sell those same stocks for a capital gain.

3. Passive income

As I mentioned above, my rich dad used the formula of “four green houses, one red hotel,” in the game of Monopoly to describe how you can make passive income, the third and final type of income.

“Assets put money in your pocket; liabilities take money out.”

Again referencing the CASHFLOW Quadrant, those on the right-side, Bs and Is, make money by acquiring assets.

In Rich Dad Poor Dad I explained in greater detail what defines an asset. To summarize, an asset puts money in your pocket regardless of whether you work or not.

The same people who were told to go to school, get a safe, secure job and invest for the long-term in the stock market were also told that their house is an asset. The belief was that your house always goes up in value.

It was only a short time ago (back in 2008) when everyone realized that belief isn’t true. Some people saw the value of their home cut in half virtually overnight. What these homeowners realized was that their home wasn’t an asset but rather a liability.

Where an asset puts money in your pocket, a liability takes money out.

Again, let’s consider your home. Even if you own your house, you still have upkeep, property taxes and utilities to pay for. If your house was an asset, it would make money for you, not take money from you.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the three types of income, now it’s time to gain a great understanding of how each affects your greatest expense: taxes.

How Taxes Affect the Three Types of Income

Ordinary earned income is how most people make a living. It’s also why most people are considered poor or middle-class. But the reason most people are designated poor or middle-class doesn’t have anything to do with how much money they make, but rather how much they keep.

The biggest expense for an E or S on the left-side of the CASHFLOW® Quadrant isn’t their mortgage, car payment or credit card bill. For people who make a living with ordinary earned income their greatest expense is their taxes.

People who earn income through a job (either as an employee or as a sole-proprietor/small business owner) lose roughly 50% of their money through taxes. Earned income is the most highly taxed of all three types of income.

Making money through portfolio income won’t save you much with your taxes, either. No matter how much you make selling stock, or even real estate, you’ll be taxed at approximately 20%.

So, using the previous example about buying and selling stocks (in the portfolio section), if you buy 1,000 shares of stock at $10 and sell the shares for $40, you’ll make $30,000 in profit.

Buy 10,000 shares @ $10 = $10,000
Sell 10,000 shares @ $40 = $40,000
Profit                                = $30,000

However, once you take 20% off the top for taxes, you would be left with $24,000.

Keep More of What You Make

Though you would still make a lot of money, imagine paying nothing in taxes—legally.

When you invest in your financial education and start earning passive income, you’ll not only know how to make money without a job but you’ll pay less in taxes.

Passive income is taxed less than both ordinary earned income and portfolio income because of reasons found in the tax code. I won’t bore you with the details, however, it’s worth noting that the government provides benefits for those who create jobs, Bs and Is. The more jobs there are, the more workers are required to fill those jobs. The more people that are working, the more taxes that can be collected.


You should have a solid understanding of the three types of income—earned, portfolio and passive—and a basic understanding of how taxes affects each income stream.

I’m not implying one is better than the other. The purpose of this post was to educate you on the different income options available to you. I’m also not here to tell you which of the three different types of income you should spend your time acquiring, that’s a personal decision.

One thing you can do today is play CASHFLOW® Classic for free. Stay alert to how you play the game. Are you happy collecting small deals (green houses) or are you playing to win (playing for big deals)? How you answer that question might hold the key to which type of income you should play for.

Original publish date: March 19, 2019