Making Your Money Last

How Jeopardy Champion Julia Collins Will Spend Her Windfall

A recent champ of the TV quiz show plans to play it safe with her winnings.

Julia Collins of Wilmette, Ill., (pictured at left) won $428,100 in 20 consecutive games on Jeopardy. The 31-year-old is the highest-earning woman in the game show’s 50-year history, with the second-longest winning streak. Her streak ended in June. Here's an edited transcript of Kiplinger's interview with Collins.

 

What have you done with your winnings? I wasn’t working when I went on the show, so I went to Paris for a month and spent a week in London. How often do you have time and money at the same time? When you’re working, you can never take time off like that.

What do you plan to do with the rest of the money? Probably mostly save and invest. I paid off all my student loans while I was working, so I’m lucky enough to have no debt, which is wonderful. I have saved and contributed pretty aggressively to my workplace retirement accounts, but I haven’t really done much investing, so I’m probably going to do that. Nothing too crazy—index funds, other mutual funds.

You have a double major in art and history from Wellesley and a master’s in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. How did you manage to pay off your student loans? I had about $12,000 to $15,000 in undergrad loans that I paid off before I went to grad school. My mother helped me out a lot with that, and after college I lived at home for a long time. I ended up borrowing $30,000 for graduate school. After I finished, I went into consulting. I was pretty well compensated and didn’t have an expensive lifestyle. My personal expenses were fairly minimal, and I prioritized paying off the debt as quickly as possible, but not at the expense of contributing to my retirement accounts. Those were my two priorities. I finished paying off my loans last May.

How do you deal with requests from family, friends, charities or entrepreneurs for a gift or a loan? I’ve gotten a few “Please join my pyramid scheme” requests. But not that many people I know have asked me for money. I think I’m a little too risk-averse to get involved in anything too risky.

Have you considered getting financial advice from a professional? I received my check with only California state taxes withheld, so I think I’m probably going to hire a tax professional. As far as investing, I’ll wait and see. I don’t want or need to make any hasty decisions.

What’s next? Things are settling down, so I can focus a little more on a job search. I’ve been in supply-chain management pretty much my whole professional life. I’ve done a lot of things in that area, and I may go back to that.

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