5 Failed Money Making Schemes That Singaporeans Keep Trying

Ryan Ong



Look, I gather that money is tight. I understand that most of us will try anything to make a buck right now, at least once. I don’t think that’s bad. But it really annoys me when people try something, realize it doesn’t work, and then keep on trying because maybe they just weren’t trying hard enough. It’s like watching a fly beating itself to death against a closed window:


1. Paid Online Surveys

Before you ask, these are not all rip-offs. You can make some money off them.

And by some, I mean around $30. A month. Which suggests those smiling, overjoyed people in their banner ads have lower expectations than a jail warden in a lifers’ wing. To make that $30, you will:

  • Waste hours finding viable survey sites (because most pay in vouchers you’ll never use, unless you’re moving to Florida this year)
  • Sign up for a gazillion mailing lists, so you’ll be informed whenever a survey opportunity shows up
  • When said opportunities arrive, waste 30 minutes filling in 6 or 7 forms, before finding ONE survey you’re qualified for
  • Answer a bunch of stupid questions, spending 2 to 3 minutes per survey
  • Get $1 to $5 per survey, then ponder your worth to humanity


Beer and a laptop
Protip: Questions make more sense with beer


If you want to waste time like this, go do some telemarketing. At least you’ll make more. Or follow us on Facebook, we’ll have articles on better opportunities.


2. Multi-Level Marketing

If an old acquaintance calls you and asks:

So, what are you doing now? Can I ask you something? Are you truly happy with your life and the money you’re making?

Just say that you’ve found a new religion, only it made you swear never to get involved with MLM schemes. And to please never speak with you again, if that’s what they’re calling about.

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a trivial variation of a pyramid schemeThey can call it anything they like: MLM, Pyramid, Ponzi, flaming snotsacks…it’s basically the same thing. A scheme where sellers make money not just from sales, but from recruiting more salesmen.

Looks like we didn’t learn anything from Sunshine Empire.


ZERO written behind speaker
…and we have a good idea how many millionaires our scheme has already made.


I can’t begin to describe how much MLM damages social relations. You start selling to friends and relatives and before long, you’ll be treated like a leper. No one wants to answer your calls or meet you. Because you’re using social pressure to hard-sell, and that isn’t fair.

On top of that, you’ll waste hours organizing meetings, spend money on useless seminars, and earn the eternal contempt of your peers.

If you really want to make money from MLM, there’s one way. Find the ones that pay you (often around $20) to take their starter kit. Then give a fake contact number, throw away the kit, and pocket the money.


3. Gold Farming

Gold farming is when you invest in gold bouillon and…haha,  no you n00b. Gold farming is making money off MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). Between ’05 to ’07, MMORPGs like World of Warcraft were growing.

The virtual currency in these games had a real exchange rate. Some players wanted virtual items, but didn’t have time to earn the virtual currency (gold) needed. So they bought gold from other players, using real cash. So pretty soon, some players turned a nice profit selling virtual gold on the Internet.


WoW laptop, and a lady holding up a bread ad
Hate to interrupt; I’m your daily reminder to eat.


That was in the past. Today, it’s pretty stupid to even try. There are entire gold farming sweatshops in China, where people are paid to “play” for hours on end. They take shifts and play the game accounts 24/7, and sell accumulated gold by the bucket load. There’s no way a single player can acquire more gold than a whole farm, or compete with their prices.

Sure, there’s still a market for individual sellers. But that means “playing” the game 14 hours a day, and making an average of $1,500 a month. There are less demanding part-time jobs.


4. ACTUAL Gold Farming

Some companies hold seminars, in which they sell you actual gold bars.

The deal is that you buy a gold bar now, and when the value goes up, you can sell it back to them at a profit. Because you see, cash is devalued by inflation. Gold is worth way more than cash in your bank account.

At which point, a smart investor might ask: “Hold on. If gold is so valuable and cash isn’t, then why are you taking my cash in exchange for gold?”


It sucks compared to money. You try stuffing a pillow with it.


Maybe they need liquidity and the bank won’t finance them (That sounds trustworthy). Or just maybe, they expect gold prices to fall. Just like property, gold prices cannot rise forever. And when they do fall, you’ll be the sucker holding on to the gold.

If you really want to invest in gold, talk to a qualified broker. Don’t buy gold bars at a seminar. How are you going to unload them fast enough if prices fall?


5. Sell T-Shirts

Yes, local bloggers have set up successful blogshops. And by blogshop, that means: “Sells more than just T-shirts”.

Hear the experience of Anthony Ng, who tried selling self-designed T-shirts from a cart:

I learned the hard way that selling designed T-shirts doesn’t work. I started by using Cafepress, then I sold them on my blog and from a pushcart. I found that everything else I carried, from bags to bracelets, were easier to sell and stock.”

Selling designed T-shirts is a popular idea with tertiary students though. It’s the first thing Poly or Uni students think of.

Yes it’s one of the more common ideas,” Anthony tells me, “and I think I can name three other people who’ve tried it and failed. I don’t understand why it persists. Maybe due to the wrong impression that selling T-shirts is cheaper than selling bags, wallets, or whatever. It’s really not. Once you pay for the printing, and you bring in the stock, you’ll realize you can’t cover the cost.


Three wolf moon
*This article does not apply to THREE WOLF MOON. Nor do most laws of physics.


Anthony says if you’re going to run a blogshop or pushcart, pick something that takes less space. T-shirts are only cheap if you print them in bulk. And you probably don’t have the inventory space. In fact, Anthony suggests you sell anything besides T-shirts.

Image Credits:
401(K) 2012, kalleboo, Zero Emission Resource Organisation, Glenn Batuyong, digitalmoneyworld,

If you know any money-making schemes that don’t work, please comment and share them with us!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.