What Is DeFi for a 12-Year-Old? Understanding Decentralized Finance

You are curious about the fascinating world of technology and finance, right? Well, get ready to embark on an exciting journey as I dive into the world of DeFi. Yes, that’s right – I am going to explore how technology is changing the way we handle money!

What Is DeFi for a 12-Year-Old? Understanding Decentralized Finance
What Is DeFi for a 12-Year-Old? Understanding Decentralized Finance. Image by fanjianhua on Freepik

We live in a world where technology seems to be everywhere, and it’s important to understand how it impacts various aspects of our lives, including finance. DeFi is a revolutionary concept that brings together the power of technology and the world of money. But what exactly is DeFi, and why is it relevant to us?

I want to simplify this concept and break down its complex jargon so that even a 12-year-old should be able to understand it.

What Is DeFi?

DeFi is the short form of Decentralized Finance; according to Campbell Harvey in his book, DeFi and the Future of Finance “it is an innovative way of using technology to transform how we handle money”. 

Per Nansei.io, despite market conditions, DeFi users have gone from 4.7 million at the start of 2022 to more than 6.5 million. What does this tell us, people are getting involved in this technology and believe in the future of finance.

It’s like a whole new world of finance that opens up exciting possibilities for everyone, including you! When we think about money and banking, we imagine big buildings with banks and financial institutions. But DeFi changes the game entirely.

It allows us to conduct financial activities like saving, borrowing, and investing in a different, more accessible, and fair way.

Here’s the cool part: DeFi doesn’t rely on those traditional banks or financial institutions I mentioned earlier. Instead, it leverages computer programs called smart contracts to make things happen. Think of these smart contracts as digital agreements that run on something called a blockchain. 

Now, don’t worry if the word “blockchain” sounds unfamiliar. It’s simply a fancy term for a digital ledger, kind of like a record book, that keeps track of all the transactions made using cryptocurrencies (which are digital forms of money).

I will explain more about it in the next section but do well to watch this simplified video by Nate Matin from 99Bitcoin for more clarification.

How Does DeFi Work?

Now that we know DeFi is powered by technology, let’s explore how it works. As said earlier, one of the key elements that make DeFi possible is something called blockchain technology. Don’t worry, it might sound complex, but I’ll break it down into simple terms.

I want you to start thinking of blockchain as a digital ledger or record book that keeps track of all the transactions made using cryptocurrencies. But here’s the interesting part: this ledger isn’t stored in just one place, like a traditional bank’s database. Instead, it’s stored on many computers around the world. It’s like having a copy of the same book in different libraries all over the globe.

Now do you see why it is important? It makes the whole system more secure and transparent. Since the blockchain is stored on multiple computers, it’s very difficult for anyone to change or cheat the records. It’s like having a lot of people watching and verifying every transaction, which helps prevent fraud and ensures that everything is fair and trustworthy.

How Does DeFi Use Blockchain to Make Financial Activities Possible?

I know you are wondering how DeFi uses this blockchain technology to make financial activities possible. Well, that’s where smart contracts come into play. 

Imagine a smart contract as a programmed record book that automatically follows certain rules. Once the program starts, it can’t be changed or manipulated. It’s like a digital agreement that nobody can tamper with.

These smart contracts are built on the blockchain and act as the backbone of DeFi. They enable different financial activities to happen automatically and without any middlemen. 

For example, if you want to borrow money from someone in the DeFi world, a smart contract can automatically lend you the money if you meet certain conditions, like providing collateral or paying back within a specific time frame.

To sum it up, DeFi uses blockchain technology as a secure and transparent way to record transactions, while smart contracts act as computer programs that automatically handle financial activities, making everything more efficient and trustworthy.

Number of Active Users in DeFi

In comparison to traditional finance, DeFi is still rather small, but it is growing quickly and has already established itself as a vital resource for many people who don’t have access to standard banking services or who need to send money abroad at a reduced cost.

According to Finder, DeFi users are typically more educated, younger just like you, and technically skilled than the overall population. North America is home to the majority of users, with Europe and Asia having the next-largest user numbers.

Although DeFi customers’ income levels vary widely, it is assumed that they are higher than the global average. As I said earlier, DeFi’s active user base has been expanding quickly in recent years. An estimated 940,000 distinct active consumers using DeFi in 2021. That number increased to almost 6.5 million by 2022. 

Additionally, DeFi has an estimated 8.5 million active users in the first quarter of 2023. The popularity of decentralized exchanges (DEXs), the expansion of lending and borrowing protocols, and the rising use of DeFi by institutional investors are some of the drivers that are fueling this rise.

What are The Benefits of DeFi?

One of the coolest things about DeFi is that it comes with a bunch of advantages that can make managing your money more exciting and rewarding. Let’s explore some of these benefits:

1. Transparency:

With DeFi, everything happens on a technology called blockchain, which is open for everyone to see. So, if you’re using a DeFi platform, you can check all the transactions and make sure everything is fair and transparent. No hidden fees or secret tricks!

For example, let’s say you’re saving your allowance in a DeFi platform. You can easily track how much you’ve saved, how much interest you’re earning, and even see where your money goes when you decide to use it. It’s like having a clear window into your financial world.

2. Earning Interest and Rewards:

Here’s the really exciting part. In DeFi, you can earn interest or rewards for participating in various activities. 

Let’s say you lend some of your digital assets, like cryptocurrencies, to others on a DeFi lending platform. You’ll earn interest on those assets, just like putting your money in a savings account. It’s like making your money work for you, even when you’re not actively using it.

Or, imagine you’re part of a DeFi platform that rewards users for contributing to the network. You might earn tokens or other special rewards just for being a part of the community. It’s like being paid for being a good team player!

3. Accessibility

DeFi is designed to be inclusive, meaning anyone with an internet connection can join in. You don’t need to be a certain age or have a special status. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for people who may not have access to traditional banking services. You don’t need to provide your name, email address, or any personal information.

You can be your bank and have control over your money, no matter where you are in the world. Imagine you have a friend who lives in a place where there are no banks nearby. They can still participate in DeFi and enjoy all the benefits it offers. It’s like bringing financial services to people who need them the most.

Potential Risks and Challenges

Scams and Frauds: 

Unfortunately, just like in any other area of finance, some people try to take advantage of others in the world of DeFi. Scammers might create fake platforms or projects to trick people into giving away their money or personal information. It’s crucial to be cautious and only uses trusted and reputable DeFi platforms. Do your research, read reviews, and seek guidance from trustworthy sources before engaging with any platform.

Security Breaches and Hacks:

DeFi platforms operate in a digital environment, and that means there’s always a risk of security breaches or hacks. Hackers might try to exploit vulnerabilities in the platform’s code or gain unauthorized access to users’ funds. It’s important to choose platforms with robust security measures in place and take steps to secure your digital assets, such as using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication. Regularly update yourself on security best practices and stay vigilant.

Volatility and Financial Risks:

DeFi often involves digital assets like cryptocurrencies, which can be highly volatile. Their values can change rapidly, which means there’s a risk of losing money if you’re not careful. It’s crucial to understand the risks associated with the assets you’re dealing with and consider your risk tolerance before investing or trading. Start with small amounts and gradually increase your involvement as you gain more experience and knowledge.

Real-World Examples of DeFi Projects Making Impact

Several DeFi projects and platforms have emerged that are making a significant impact on traditional finance. Let’s explore a few examples and understand how they are revolutionizing finance and empowering individuals:

1. Aave

Aave is a decentralized lending and borrowing platform that allows users to deposit their digital assets and earn interest or borrow against them. It utilizes smart contracts to enable users to lend assets to a pool, which can then be borrowed by others. Aave stands out by offering unique features like flash loans, which allow users to borrow assets without requiring collateral as long as the borrowed amount is returned within the same transaction.

2. Compound Finance

Compound Finance is a DeFi lending platform that allows users to lend or borrow digital assets. It operates on the Ethereum blockchain and utilizes smart contracts to facilitate peer-to-peer lending. Users can earn interest on their deposited assets or borrow assets by providing collateral. 

This platform eliminates the need for intermediaries like banks, enabling individuals to earn interest on their savings or access funds without the traditional loan approval processes. It gives people more control over their finances and offers opportunities for both borrowers and lenders.

3. Uniswap

Uniswap is a decentralized exchange (DEX) that enables users to trade various cryptocurrencies directly from their digital wallets. It uses an automated market maker (AMM) model, which eliminates the need for order books and allows for seamless token swaps.

It has gained popularity for its user-friendly interface and the ability to list and trade any ERC-20 token. By removing the need for centralized exchanges, Uniswap empowers individuals to participate in the cryptocurrency market more easily and directly. It fosters liquidity and opens up opportunities for anyone to create and trade tokens, promoting financial inclusion.

4. MakerDAO

MakerDAO is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that operates the Maker protocol, which powers the stablecoin called DAI. DAI is designed to maintain a stable value against the US dollar through algorithmic mechanisms. Users can lock their digital assets as collateral and generate DAI against them. 

This stablecoin provides an alternative to traditional fiat currencies, offering stability while still being part of the decentralized ecosystem. By creating a stable and accessible digital currency, MakerDAO opens up possibilities for individuals in regions with unstable fiat currencies and limited access to traditional banking systems.


I believe I have explored the world of decentralized finance (DeFi) and how it can be understood by a 12-year-old audience. I have discussed the basics of finance, introduced the concept of DeFi, and explained it’s working through smart contracts on a blockchain.

More so, I highlighted the benefits of DeFi, such as transparency, accessibility, and the ability to earn interest or rewards. 

And how DeFi offers a transparent financial system where transactions can be verified by anyone, making it fair and trustworthy.discussed real-world examples of DeFi projects and platforms that are making a significant impact. Projects like Compound Finance, Uniswap, Aave, and MakerDAO are revolutionizing traditional finance by empowering individuals.

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