This Is Why Alex Trebek Never Wanted to Retire

Trebek hosted the show for over 35 years. Read on to see why he kept going back to his beloved job years after most people would choose to retire.

For 55 years, Jeopardy! has been a staple in American households, with longtime host Alex Trebek becoming an honorary family member to many viewers. Sadly, the longtime host lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on November 8, 2020, at the age of 80 and the last episode hosted by him will air on Friday, January 8.  But, during his storied career, there’s one Jeopardy! question even the most diehard fans would likely have gotten wrong: when would Alex Trebek retire, if ever? 

While many would start planning for retirement after more than three decades on a job, Trebek told People in March 2019 he’d be “lost” without Jeopardy! and he loved his role presenting trivia to eager contestants. 

Although he signed up for another three years on the show in November 2018, the host had told CTV that his skills were starting to diminish. And when they really started to go, he would likely leave Jeopardy!. “When I feel like my skills have diminished to the point I notice and [am] bothered by it, I notice now, but I’m not as bothered by it because all of the people around me are saying, ‘No it’s OK,'” Trebek said. “But there will come a point when they will no longer able to say, ‘It’s OK.'”

Before his cancer diagnosis, Trebek had no plans of retiring early. “You get to a certain age, and if you’ve been doing the same show for 30 years, or the same job, whatever it is, for 30 years, wouldn’t you think about retirement?” Trebek told People. “What am I gonna do? I’m enjoying myself, and I’m having a good time with what I’m doing now, but if I were to retire, what would I do? I’d be lost. My wife would say I’m getting on her nerves because I’m around all the time. I’m around most of the time anyway now except for two days.”

In 2018, during an interview with TMZ founder Harvey Levin, Trebek recommended that hockey announcer Alex Faust or CNN legal analyst Laura Coates could be his replacements—they’d both have to brush up on these Jeopardy! categories that stump everyone if either decided to consider the job down the road. 


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Erin Kayata
Erin Kayata joined Reader’s Digest as an assistant staff writer in March 2019, coming from the Stamford Advocate where she covered education. Prior to this, she was part of a two-year Hearst fellowship program where she covered crime and education in suburban Connecticut. She graduated from Emerson College and spent part of her undergraduate career writing for the Boston Globe. When she’s not writing articles about useful facts and pop culture, you can find Erin enjoying the local theater scene and working toward her goal of reading 50 books a year.