Pattie Lovett-Reid: Lessons learned from Squid Game
Squid Game is a Korean Netflix survival drama about desperate adults and the lengths they will go to, including competing in deadly games for an opportunity to escape crippling debt.
The main character of the hit series, Seong Gi-hun, is in dire financial straits as a result of layoffs, gambling debts and personal loans.
Although fictional, the show puts a spotlight on South Korea’s real-life crisis of mounting household debt, which at $1.89 trillion now exceeds the country's GDP.
But what about Canada? Mortgages have driven household debt to approximately $2.5 trillion, also above our GDP. And with a rising cost of living, there are many Canadians struggling to get by.
According to Laurie Campbell, director of Client Financial Wellness at Bromwich+Smith, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, good, bad, or ugly debts can mount up and become seemingly impossible to manage. The pandemic has definitely hurt many people, much like other catastrophic financial events (such as recession, divorce, health issues, or job loss). First and foremost, people need to recognize they are not alone and that there is help out there.
Here are a few thoughts to turn yourself around financially:
1. You can't change what you don't address and acknowledge head on. Confront your financial facts as brutal as they may be and stop running from your financial responsibilities and obligations.
Think back to the very first episode where Seong steals from his mother, expects financial support and is a deadbeat dad.
Lesson: This doesn't have to be you.
2. If you have money coming in be very clear on what you are spending it on. There is an old adage: Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Whether you have money or not, be prudent, spend carefully, live below your means and begin to save. You create wealth not by how much you make but by how little you spend.
After losing his money, and then winning just over $10, Seong plays a claw machine game to try and win a gift box for his daughter’s birthday. When he does eventually win a gift from the machine, the gift box contains a lighter in the shape of a gun.
Lesson: Spend wisely.
3. The savvy person knows you don't have to do it alone. This is where Squid Game gets real. The secretive North Korea defector, Kang Sae-byeok, has a tough time trusting people. However, in a revelatory moment near the end of the series, she demonstrates there is no shame in asking for help. People will often wait until things have spiralled out of control and then feel it is too late. Financial experts will tell you it is never too late.
Campbell reminds us, "during trying times individuals can panic and look for quick solutions. But beware, there are many scam artists out there more than willing to take your money. Get help from a professional such as a Licensed Insolvency Trustee who is authorized and licensed by the federal government to help. They will look at all your options and help you on the road to debt recovery.
Lesson: There is no shame in asking for help.
4. Many participants on the show have a vast amount of debt. Paying yourself first small amounts of money and tucking it aside for an emergency is a great place to start saving money. Slow and steady wins the race here.
Lesson: Saving will take discipline but it is a behaviour you can adopt.
Bottom line is that debt is often gradual, seems benign but can have long-term ramifications to your mental and financial well-being. As terrible as it may seem and impossible it may appear to be to manage -- it doesn't have to be insidious and ruin your life.
Don't let being overwhelmed prevent you from asking for help. There are professionals who can help you restructure. As Squid Game clearly illustrates now is not the time to put your head in the sand.