Life is like a game of Chutes & Ladders

If there is one thing I have learned in the last few years about finance, it’s that gaining wealth and financial security is a long, arduous road. It’s like the childhood game I used to play, Chutes and Ladders. You take little steps forward, only to find yourself on the next turn sliding down, further from your goals. And isn’t it unfair that the ladders advance you instead of the chutes? It’s way easier to slide than it is to climb a ladder.

Unfortunately the real game of life is no different from my childhood game. For example, my life at the moment. After J and I got married, we received monetary gifts (ladder), saved money from our wedding budget (ladder), only to realize three weeks into our marriage that we needed to replace my car (chute).

Since both of us had old cars (1994 & 1996), we decided to buy a newer, more expensive car that should last for the next 15 years, and J would use his car only for work and back. We took out a small loan ($4,000) and paid the rest in cash on a 2009 Mazda3. I absolutely hate debt and it took a lot of calculating, but we figured that we could pay it off by January and keep our $5,000 emergency fund stable.

Fast forward to this week, a month after buying our Mazda. We had just put together our grand plan to pay off our loan and start saving more in our emergency fund, when J’s car broke down. And the real kicker: it will cost $1,600 to fix (chute). At this point, we would rather invest that money into a newer, more reliable car, but it’s still money that we don’t want to part with even if we fix it.

Life is just unfair sometimes, just like the game of Chutes and Ladders, where the steps are chosen by a dice. Cars break down when you need them. People who do less work seem to get the promotions. Emergencies happen. But the best thing to do in these situationsΒ is acknowledge that it sucks, see how far you’ve come since you started the game, and quickly move on. Because after you slide down a chute, there’s usually a ladder coming up. And the only way to win the game is to keep playing.



  • Yep, that’s life! All you can do in “chute” times is remain positive and go with the flow. Hey, at least you’ve paid off all that c.c. debt! I know how frustrating it is, but, as you said, another ladder will be along soon. Good luck getting through this!

  • Fantastic post! I went down a big chute in April…moving on and learning from (having more savings in my case) is the best way to deal. Although it’s depressing sometimes :)

  • PFC

    I don’t think there is a better way to describe life in general. There will always be chutes but there will also be ladders. Its the choices we make in life that keep us going. And just like the game we can choose to move forward getting the good with the bad and possible win or just stay where you are and never experience anything. Me personally i choose moving forward because thats the only way to win
    Very well said

  • As painful as it may be, I say invest in a new car. It’s reliable transportation and you don’t have to deal with all those high maintenance costs. It sucks to have a car note but if you’re shelling out that much cash, you can put it towards somethign that won’t break.

  • kim

    I have often thought about my debt being like this game. But remember we all eventually won. You continued to roll the dice or spin the wheel and eventually you got to the top. Life is like that you must endure to the end to get the reward. But try to enjoy the ride a little!

  • Great comparison! I think this is the best analogy I have seen in a long time.

    Good luck with the game!

  • Love this post! So beautifully written and so true!

  • True that. I played this game as well but my version was snakes and ladders. You got eaten by the snake. kinda makes more sense since a snake is less fun than a ladder. Anyways life really is like this game.

  • Mrs Pancakes

    This is so true! Great analogy! Hopefully everything works out with J’s car:-)

  • Yeah, you got that right. Love your analogy.

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