March 27, 2017

Authors Posts by Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

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Photo By Shawn Danker
A family quietly watches some planes prepare for departure from Changi Airport's viewing gallery.

by Ryan Ong

As a veteran traveller I’ve been mugged, robbed (there’s a difference), caught in riots, cheated by hotels, and assaulted by white supremacists. Whatever could go wrong, I’ve survived it and learned from it, like a freakish man-roach hybrid. The lessons I’ve learned will keep you safe:

  1. Never book an AirBnB Apartment Before Checking the Refund Policy

Some renters have a “strict” to “long term” policy for refunds. You can view the definitions of each refund policy here.

Here’s a common way people lose money on the refund:

You book an apartment, without noticing the refund policy, and think everything is fine. Then the person renting suddenly contacts you, and says something like “Oh, you didn’t tell me there was another person. I didn’t hear that. I’ll have to charge you $X more”.

If you get annoyed and back out, they’ll quickly agree.

That’s when you’ll realise that you just lost half the money you put down, because a policy of “strict” or above means a 50% refund. Imagine paying $1,200 for a 10 day stay, and then getting only $600 back (and you’ll still have to pay for a new place after that).

  1. Never Bring All Your Credit Cards with You

Keep at least one credit card in the hotel safe. If you lose your wallet, the thieves won’t be able to max out all your cards. Also, you’ll still have some credit available even if you lose the wallet.

  1. Never Use Names like “Mum”, “Dad”, “Brother”, etc. on Your Phone Contacts List When Abroad

Use your family members’ first names. Otherwise, you make yourself a prime target for a kidnap scam. This is when thieves steal your phone, and then send ransom messages to your family. Remember, they have your phone so it’s not like your family can call you to check.

Which leads to my next point…

  1. Never Fail to Have a Spare Phone

Get a second, cheap phone that you leave in the hotel. This is your emergency mobile, in the event you lose your regular phone.

Always have your whole contacts list programmed in this phone as well. When you are robbed or misplace your phone, the main problem is not finding another phone but retrieving your contacts list.

In the event of an emergency, such as an injury, you will need those phone numbers on hand.

  1. Never Leave Without Insurance Coverage

I highly recommend that you buy travel insurance from your current agent, instead of online or at an ATM.

Insurance claims can get complicated, and you will want the insurance agent’s guidance. If you are injured, for example, failing to get the medical report or going to the wrong clinic can invalidate your claim.

On that note, check if your health insurance policy applies when you’re injured or ill abroad. If you travel often, consider buying a clause that covers you when you’re overseas.

  1. Never Leave Before Knowing the Embassy’s Address and Number

Wherever you’re going, always note down the address and contact details of the Singapore embassy there.

The embassy is the first place you should call if you end up in legal trouble abroad. You should also let the embassy know if you have been severely injured, fall ill, or become the victim of a crime. This is even more important when you are alone, as it assures that they will check on you and keep your family updated.

  1. Always Know Your Credit Card Helpline

You’ll want to call the bank back in Singapore as soon as your credit card is gone. The faster it’s cancelled, the lower the chances of someone getting a free shopping spree.

Also, if the bank decides you took your time to report it*, they will hold you liable for the charges.

(*I was once beaten and robbed in a country where few people speak English. I managed to call the bank after two and half hours, and Standard Chartered still called it “late reporting”. That’s so you know how quickly you have to call.)

  1. Buy Your Prepaid Phone Card at Your Destination

Sure, you can try and set things up with your telco in Singapore, or buy a prepaid card over here instead.

But what happens if you get there and it doesn’t work?

Odds are you’ll have to buy a prepaid card over there anyway, and you would have wasted your money (or you can go through the hassle of a refund when you get back). This is especially an issue in developing countries, where communications can get spotty.

Save yourself the hassle and buy the prepaid card over there. Then test it in the shop, and let the storekeeper help you.

  1. Never Reload the Price Comparison Site Before Clearing Your Cache

Comparing airline tickets? Clear the cache before going back to the site. Many price comparison sites raise the prices when you return repeatedly, because they know there’s a good chance you’re going to buy.

  1. Never Use the Phone in Your Hotel Room Without Checking the Rates

I have seen rates for hotel room phones go as high as $12 a minute. A three minute call to your old friend, to say you’ve arrived, might incur a $30+ charge.

So never, ever, use the hotel phone without checking the rates. Use it for calling the front desk or room service, nothing else.


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Photo By Shawn Danker
A vacant office.

by Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong’s official story is that he was rocketed here from a dying planet, saw his foster parents brutally murdered, and was bitten by a radioactive spider while vowing to fight crime.

In the more imaginary version, Ryan started writing freelance as a student. He contributed to fantasy and sci-fi magazines while studying in Perth, Australia, and published his first story at age 14. It won him an award for amateur horror fiction, as well as mandatory school counselling.

Upon his return to Singapore, he worked as a marketing executive for a local restaurant, while still writing freelance and playing gigs on the side. He also had to study while doing this, so it’s lucky the songs people want in pubs have only four chords.

Ryan valiantly attempted to study both Business and English, despite being told it was impossible. He persisted anyway out of passion, and did not succeed, because that’s what happens when you believe motivational coaches.

After getting just a diploma in marketing, Ryan ended his business studies and instead got an English degree from the University of London (Goldsmith). His rationale was that writers at least admit they make things up.

Later, Ryan ghost-wrote several books and articles on finance for the industry’s leading minds. He learned and applied a lot of the lessons from them, and especially enjoys being able to say “I wrote the book on investments. Literally.”

Ryan made his first serious cash during the 2008 crisis, thanks to the financial education that came out of his work. He still believes that finance professionals ultimately write books to learn, not to teach (you really need to know your stuff to fill a few chapters).

Ryan has subsequently written for various other finance sites, and his work has also appeared in magazines such as Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest Asia, and Esquire. By now, his work has covered topics ranging from ball bearings to mortgages to common foot diseases.

Then Ryan got a call from Daniel Yap and was asked to write for The Middle Ground. He rushed right in, hoping for an office in the central district. It turns out that the office won’t be along Middle Road, but in Commonwealth Avenue. He was told he was still to write about finance, but in a user-friendly manner for that wide swathe of people who are stressed from looking after kids and parents, like me. He was told that The Middle Ground was needed because in this age of polarised opinions, changing mindsets and reality TV, it would be good to have a publication that would stay in the middle or even switch sides. He wondered if this showed lack of conviction, then decided that people who never change their minds lack intelligence.

In any case, he thought it would be good to make readers rich because of something he wrote. Then, when they are all high income earners, successful business owners, directors, etc. he hopes to sell you private jets, yachts, and other things they can afford by then.

His life ambition is to travel the world as a nameless stranger, standing in the middle of town to offer large cash rewards to people for completing quests (e.g. save 10 dogs from an animal shelter), and solving puzzles.


This article was first published at

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