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Tae Kim

Tae Kim

Squid Game Money Lessons

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The latest Netflix sensation – Squid Game. It’s the show everyone is talking about.

456 players, drawn from all walks of life, but each deeply in debt, play a set of Korean children’s games with deadly consequences for a chance to win ₩45.6 billion Won. Equivalent to about $38 million US dollars.

It’s got people getting shot at. People falling through glass panels. People getting stabbed.  Seeing this, you might think the show’s only about blood and gore. But did you know that it has some invaluable money lessons as well?

It’s true.  I’ll be sharing with you 7 money lessons from Squid Games.  Some pretty obvious and some not so.

Thankfully, you don’t have to play Red Light, Green Light with snipers or Tug of War to death to learn these money lessons.

And a quick warning, spoilers ahead!

01 – Practice Good Information Security

Episode 1 starts with Gi-hun (기훈), stealing his ailing mothers debit card and using the money to gamble on horse racing.

Few obvious takeaways here.

  • One, don’t steal from your ailing mother who’s breaking her back to support you financially. It’s only a TV show, but it shows what can happen to our moral compass when we are financially desperate.
  • Second, if the mother knew her son had some bad habits, she should have done a better job of hiding her debit card. You never know who you can trust, so do everyone a favor and keep sensitive items like your credit card, debit card and cash in places where it’s not easily accessible.
  • Lastly, don’t make your password easy to guess. It only took Gi-hun (기훈) few tries to guess that his mother’s ATM number was his daughter’s birthday!  Use passwords that only you can decipher and avoid poor cybersecurity practices like using names and birthdays as passwords.  According to Harvard Information Security, a good password should include – Uppercase character, lowercase character, a number and/or symbol and should be at least 10 or more characters.

02 – Avoid Risky Debt At All Cost

After Gi-hun (기훈) steals money from his mom’s debit card, he goes straight to a horse race casino to gamble.  Eventually, Gi-hun’s loan shark creditors find him and threaten him.

Now, again this is a TV show, so they portray these loan sharks in some pretty intimidating and disgusting light.  And we might be thinking, I would never in a million years get myself involved with such individuals.

However, when I talk about risky debt, I’m not just talking about money from these nefarious loan sharks.

Any borrowed money with super high interest rates with short turnaround time are pretty much the same. Think payday loans, credit card debt and even private loans from banks.

Borrowing money can become an addiction. The more you borrow, the more you become dependent on it and without you realizing, it consumes you.  In the end, you have nothing but a pile of debt with your name on it.

Most of the players in the Squid Game joined the game because they needed to pay debt they collected over their lives.

Avoid risky debt at all costs.

Or you might find yourself one day at a Subway station, being approached by this handsome man.

03 – Don’t Neglect Insurance

In Episode 2, we find Gi-hun (기훈) at the hospital with his sick mother. Her feet needed treatment due to her severe diabetes.

With the doctor’s recommendation, Gi-hun tells his mother to get treated at the hospital and let the insurance pay for her medical expenses.

However, his mother, irritated, reminds him that he canceled the insurance a while back and used up all the money.

You could be completely healthy today, but you may find yourself needing medical treatment tomorrow.

The most valuable lessons in life can be learned from our failures and we learn this lesson here; Don’t neglect your insurance policy!

It’s one thing to gamble with your own health or money, but something completely different when it’s someone close to you like your own mother.

A good health or life insurance is crucial if an emergency arises. Always protect yourself financially with an insurance policy.

04 – Don’t Gamble

This might seem obvious watching how Gi-hun (기훈) threw his mom’s money away at the horse racing track.

It’s an addictive behavior because you are obsessed with the potential high returns. However, you aren’t considering all the downside risks and how much you can lose.

And when it comes to gambling, I’m not just talking about obvious gambling like horse racing or the casinos.

When you don’t understand something and you invest your money into it, with hopes of high returns, you are also essentially gambling.

Think about people who dabble in futures, crypto, penny stocks or options trading.

Most often, people who chase after these ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ investments don’t really understand what they are even buying.

Many of the participants in Squid Game ended up with mountain of debt because they were addicted to gambling like Gi-hun (기훈). They bet whatever money they had on speculation and ended up fighting for their lives in this winner takes all game.

The general rule of thumb I like to use to distinguish between gambling and real investment is this:

If it’s exciting and gives you an adrenaline rush. That’s not really investing.

Real investing should be boring as watching paint dry.

05 – If It’s Too Good To Be True, Then It Probably Is

In episode 6, Abdul Ali is tricked by Sang-woo (상우), resulting in one of the show’s saddest death. He was one of my favorite characters and it was heart wrenching watching how he was tricked and betrayed by someone he trusted.

There is a lesson here – to always do a sanity check if something seems too good to be true.

When Gi-hun (기훈) was approached by the Squid Game salesman in Episode 1, he should have realized that the pitch was too good to be true. Nothing in life is free.

Similarly, when Sang-woo proposed to Abdul Ali that there is a chance both of them could make it out of the marble game alive, Abdul Ali should have done a sanity check.

Nothing in the game so far left any clues to that conclusion. And he could have simply checked with the guard that was standing right next to them the whole time.

We are bombarded with too good to be true promises all the time:

  • Buy this investment and in an hour, you will become a millionaire!
  • Lose weight in minutes with this diet pill!
  • Use this cologne and you’ll be better looking in seconds!

If they are promising you the world in a short period of time, something is not right.

Trust your gut and do some more research before jumping into anything. And if it’s too good to be true, don’t jump at all.

Or we can end up like our sad friend, Abdul Ali.

06 – It’s Ok To Ask For Help

Sae-byeok (새벽) is a complex and mysterious character. She showed her cunningness in episode 3 by sneaking her way into the vent and identifying what the next game was going to be.

In episode 6, she showed her soft side when she’s paired up with player 240, Ji-yeong and was conflicted by Ji-yeong’s decision to let Sae-byeok win because she believed Sae-byeok had more to live for.

However, it was in episode 8 where we really connect with her character.

Throughout the games, Sae-byeok had a tough time trusting people. But in episode 8, after Sae-byeok receives a fatal wound from the Glass Bridge game, she asks Gi-hun for help. She asks Gi-hun to please take care of her younger brother if she didn’t make it out of the games alive.

It was a sad, yet eye-opening moment that makes us understand that there is no shame in asking for help. Especially when you are in dire need.

When it comes to finances, most people don’t face their troubles and don’t ask for help early enough. Instead, they try to solve their problems on their own with either limited knowledge or resources.

This is where the ‘too good to be true’ schemes or ‘risky debt’ start to look like real hope and they get themselves into a deeper hole.

If you need any kind of help—financial or not—you should know when and how to ask for help from the people around you. Especially from those that love you and care for you.

07 – Money Is Not Everything

The final episode revealed some shocking twists. It was revealed that Il-nam (일남), the old man with chronic illness, was not only alive, but he was actually the mastermind behind this twisted game.

And when asked why he did what he did – he answered that it was because, even with all the money he had, he was still bored. And because he was bored, he created this game to feel alive again.

Man, how mentally sick do you have to be to think like that?

The show was about desperate people pursuing a pile of money, which they believed would alleviate them of their life’s problems and give them happiness.

However, both Gi-hun (기훈) and Il nam (일남) showed in the last episode. Money is not everything and it doesn’t automatically bring happiness.

Money should not be our ultimate goal in life. Managing money well is important – because we don’t want to end up like Gi-hun or Sang-woo fighting for our lives in a Squid game.

However, if we fixate our life goal on money, we can also end up like Il-nam. Never finding true peace and happiness – just sick and twisted.

Focus on the people you love. Focus on appreciating the small things in life. Money helps you to buy things you need to live, but it will never buy happiness.

Final Thoughts

Who knew that watching a violent South Korean Netflix show could teach us so many useful lessons about money, huh?

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