Squid Game, the enormously popular South Korean Netflix show (about desperate adults competing in deadly games for a chance to escape overwhelming debt) hits close to home as a personal finance parable for the times. The savage scenario depicted on 111 million screens (the most popular show in Netflix history) was inspired by South Korea's crippling debt crisis.
The show’s “hero”, Seong Gi-hun, is a laid-off autoworker who struggles with continual business failures and gambling debts.
Much like the Squid Game contestants, many Canadian households find themselves awash in debt – cost of living, higher grocery prices and soaring fuel costs are all a factor. The financial experts at Bromwich + Smith offer these money lessons from Squid Game:
1. Make an effort to pay off debt
In episode 1, Seong Gi-hun appears as a deadbeat father who uses his elderly mother for financial support, stealing her bank card and withdrawing money to bet on horses. Instead of paying off his debt, he runs away and gets robbed.
2. Spend your money wisely
After losing his money and gaining 10,000 won (about $10.46 Canadian), Seong Gi-hun uses the money to try and win a gift box for his daughter’s birthday from a claw vending machine. But the box contains a lighter shaped like a gun.
3. Know when to ask for financial help
The secretive North Korean defector, Kang Sae-byeok, has a tough time trusting people. But in Episode 8, she learns to ask for help in a revelatory moment that shows there’s no shame in asking for help from loved ones (or from financial experts).
Most people don’t like to discuss their financial challenges until it is seemingly too late. (Hint, it’s never too late). Rather than put your head in the sand, it’s important to remember there are professionals for financial and debt advice who can help you restructure.
4. The importance of saving
Many of Squid Game's contestants have crushing debt for several reasons. Saving is a valuable habit that takes some discipline, but there are behaviours you can adopt. Save some cash in an emergency fund for a rainy day — it can come in handy if life storms erupt.