From 2016 to 2019, Buzzy Cohen won a whopping $441,603 as a contestant on "Jeopardy!"
Cohen's impressive win-streak and memorable appearances on the game show scored him a week stint as "Jeopardy!" guest host last May, which he described as "a dream come true." He's hoping the opportunity will turn into a permanent hosting gig. "Jeopardy!" is currently looking to replace its late host Alex Trebek, who passed away in November 2020.
While Cohen's "lifelong dream" is to become a "Jeopardy!" host, the 36-year-old music executive from Los Angeles, California, made sure to use his winnings to fulfil his other life goals, too. "What I was really focused on was taking care of potential future major costs," he says.
Cohen made three "smart" money moves with his "Jeopardy!" winnings, says Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner and founder of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens. Here's how he set himself and his family up for the future.
Cohen has a wife and two children, so after winning, "it was really about making sure that [my children] were set up appropriately for college with 529 plans, and setting my wife and myself up with retirement plans," he says.
That's a wise move for windfall money. "You want to know your bases are taken care of," says Bradley. "It's about building your foundation that supports you long term, and [Cohen] did the right thing with education and retirement."
While Cohen acknowledges retirement and education are "less exciting" ways to spend game show winnings, "I look at retirement as deferred fun spending because hopefully I'll be traveling," he says.
After his nine-game win streak in 2016, Cohen decided to make a major career change. After about nine years as an employee for different music production companies, he decided to start his own business. His company, The Teenage Diplomat, produces music for commercials for clients such as Facebook and Nike.
"Just knowing I had a little bit of a pool of cash, just in case things didn't go the way I planned them to, gave me peace of mind to make a really important move in my career," Cohen says.
Video by David Fang
Your ability to earn money is your most valuable asset, Bradley says. So making a career move with a windfall and starting your own business can be a wise investment, as long as you've paid off your debts and have savings set aside for the future.
"He invested in himself. That's huge," says Bradley. "Because that's probably his source of future security, well-being, and maybe even wealth."
Investing in your future is important, but "you want to have fun with a windfall of money, and so I think it's hard to say, 'Put it all away.' So I gave myself a little bit of a budget from it," Cohen says.
Cohen tried to have fun with a small portion of his winnings, using the money "to elevate some experiences" the family had already saved and planned for. For example, "when my wife and I, or family, were going on a trip, we would elevate some aspect like upgrade the flights to business class or stay in a slightly nicer hotel," he says.
It's important to find small ways is to treat yourself after a big win, Bradley says. "Rather than spending money because you have it, or spending money because that's what your peers are doing, it's really about feeling joy. ... Joy is really important in life."
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