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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.

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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.

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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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