Sona Wealth


I’ll Take Jeopardy, Risk, & Retirement For $1,000, Alex.

I’ll take Movies In The DirectTV Guide for $500, Alex.

The answer: “Two hit men, a boxer, a crime boss, and others meet their fates over the course of two days.”

James Holzhauer’s question: “What is Snatch?”

Correct question: “What is Pulp Fiction?”

Living in Minnesota, I don’t often read
the Chicago Tribune, but the headline “Want to be a ‘Jeopardy’ champ
like James Holzhauer? You can train for it, but the right type of brain helps
caught my eye. Maybe because it was so long. As I read, his
story resonated with me. I also enjoyed the Weird Al parody playing in my head:

I was there, to match my intellect, on national TV,Against a plumber, and an architect, both with a Ph.D.I was tense, I was nervous,I guess it just wasn’t my night.

Even though I was appalled that the above answer was one of the few he has gotten wrong (I LOVE that movie!), James Holzhauer has many of the characteristics described in the article as traits of success. According to the article, one common personality trait of those who do well on Jeopardy is they think linearly and are often good at math. As you might guess, they often have photographic memories too. They are able to take a lot of information in and pull it right back out.

This ability can be powerful for many
professions and activities, especially trivia. The article points out that this
strength often comes with weaknesses. If there is one thing that superhero
movies have taught us it is that
most great strengths come with weaknesses, like Superman and Kryptonite. The
weakness for the Trivia X-men –let’s call them Trebekmen (and women)— is their risk aversion.

This would explain a lot about James’s
performance. Because not only is he winning but he is crushing all the dollar
amount records per win. His average daily winning amount is more than the old
one-day record — after 35 years!!! His approach to risk has a lot to do with
this. He does not play it safe in the beginning, starting off with the smaller
category amounts and only risking a lot when he has to at the end of the game.
He takes on risk early and often. Betting large amounts on Daily Doubles early
in the game. Why? Well, I am sure he is calculating odds and potential returns
throughout the game, like most math-oriented sports gamblers, but my guess is
he knows that if he gets one wrong, he still has a lot of game left to come

His approach not only takes advantage
of his competitor’s weaknesses but also the flaws in the conventional way of
thinking. What he has done is interesting on many levels, but being a financial
planner, it was intriguing from a retirement and financial planning point of

During our youth, the
Jeopardy of our life, is when we should be taking on risk; investment
risk, career risk, social risk… you get the idea. As we near retirement we
should decrease risk, because we have less time to recover if things go wrong.
Age-based, or target-date retirement funds are based on this concept. They
slowly decrease risk as the investor gets closer to retirement.

It is understandable that certain personality types would have trouble with
this, but what is really strange is given the popularity of the show, James
seems to be the first one to overcome this
behavioral predisposition.

We all have personality traits that
give us strengths and weaknesses, but we are also impacted by culture, or the
accepted way of doing things. It’s why it took 35 years for someone to take the
proper risk strategy to Jeopardy and why we have a retirement and student loan
crisis. The accepted way of taking on student loan debt, buying a home, credit
card debt, and saving for retirement is not the best way of doing things.
Unless we start taking a fresh approach to our financial lives, we will not
move past the accepted way of doing things and be the best version of ourselves.