Good At Life

Squid Game: 6 financial lessons from Netflix’s survival drama.

New York Life | October 9, 2021

Updated December 8, 2023


Squid Game: The Challenge is Netflix's latest hit. On this reality competition show, contestants play children's games against one another with a huge cash prize – over $4 million – for the winner. Unlike on the bloody South Korean drama it's based on though, the losers aren't killed – they just pretend to die.  

The original Squid Game is one of Netflix’s biggest ever hits and the first non-English language series to be nominated for an Emmy. If you haven't heard of it by now, the show is a thriller set in modern-day Seoul that sees 456 cash-strapped players lured into playing a series of children's survival games to win a sizable cash prize – or die trying. At its peak, it was the #1 Netflix show in 91 countries.

Placing a group of strangers together in a series of life-or-death challenges is an imaginative premise. But as the games grow more twisted, the opportunities to reflect on how each contestant could have prevented their financial crisis become more pointed.

Look beyond the contest and you’ll find lessons that resonate in the real word around protecting your finances and the anxiety that economic hardship can cause. In a fictional show that portrays dramatic consequences of bad money decisions, here are a few insights to hopefully help you avoid a real life financial crisis.

Lesson #1: The importance of saving money
Saving money is one of the most important financial habits you can adopt. It’s simple advice, but a lot of people aren’t following it. Most of Squid Game's contestants are saddled with debt because saving takes discipline and a degree of sacrifice. If the thought of saving money feels like a challenge to you, remember there are small things almost anyone can do to set aside some money for the future.

Lesson #2: Gambling is always a risky business

One of Squid Game's main characters has a horse racing gambling addiction. Another makes extremely risky investments using client money. Both contestants take a gamble on getting rich quickly with little to no effort. Squid Game reminds us that easy money opportunities and “get rich quick” schemes do not exist. Personal wealth takes time to grow. Allow it that process.

Lesson #3: Protect your financial accounts
When a Squid Game contestant steals his mother's ATM card and enters his own daughter's date of birth as the correct PIN number, it’s an important reminder to protect all of your financial accounts. Get a PIN that makes it harder for anyone to steal your money. Create strong, separate passwords and store them safely to protect yourself online from hackers. Learn more here.

Lesson #4: Spend your money wisely

Squid Game tells the story of people who are struggling with financial issues due to poor choices in life. Spending wisely simply means having the knowledge and confidence to make the most of your money. No matter how big or small your income is, not overspending is a critical habit to get into. If you’re spending wisely, you’ll find more opportunities to save and grow your finances instead.

Lesson #5: Never underestimate the importance of insurance

In an early episode of Squid Game, we find out the main character Seong Gi-hun,has cancelled his mother’s health insurance and spent the money elsewhere, making it impossible for her to get the medical help she needs. While New York Life isn’t in the health insurance industry, it’s a reminder of the importance of protecting yourself and your family with insurance to handle whatever my happen in life. It’s never easy thinking about worst-case scenarios, but it’s important to have a level of protection in place to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Lesson #6: Seeking support is your greatest strength

In Squid Game, many characters live in denial about their financial situation, or try to solve problems alone only to dig themselves into a deeper hole. Most people don’t share their financial hardships before it’s too late. Asking for help may feel difficult, intimidating and embarrassing, but if you need any kind of support, you should know when and how to ask for help from the people around you.

The poor financial decisions of the characters in Squid Game pushed them to a point where they had no one else to turn to and had to resort to desperate measures. New York Life is there for you whatever your financial goals may be. Learn more about making financial plans and setting your own goals here.

Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.


Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.

Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937