Serena Williams First Million-Dollar Paycheck Splurge Was Financially Savvy — It Went to the Bank!

What would you do with a million dollars? Porsche. Louboutin. Gucci. Most of us could easily come up with a list of items we’d buy right away. But Serena Williams isn’t like most people. Obviously, she’s a world-class tennis champ, but there’s more to her than just a great serve. Williams is surprisingly great at financial management

Serena Williams made bank with tennis

Serena Williams
Serena Williams | Al Bello/Getty Images

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Williams is arguably one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. She has won six U.S. Open titles and 23 Grand Slam singles titles. Many believe that her incredible success on the court is because of her powerful serve, which has been described as “the biggest weapon there has ever been in the sport.”

Professional athletes always bring in the big bucks, and Williams is no different. From 2016 to 2019, she was the world’s highest paid female athlete.

This year, she’s the second-highest-paid, surpassed only by fellow tennis player, Naomi Osaka. Over the course of her career, Williams has been paid out over $90 million in tournament earnings, and that doesn’t even include her large number of endorsement deals with brands such as Nike, Puma, Gatorade, Pepsi, and many more. 

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Williams current net worth is around $200 million. Oh, and she’s married to the founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, who has his own giant fortune. That’s a lot of money to handle all at once. 

Serena Williams was taught about money management as a child

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Luckily, Williams has always been money savvy. When asked about it by during a Chase Chats webcast, she explained that the lessons started early from her father. 

“My dad always said ‘athletes lose their money,‘” she said. “He always talked about the importance of not losing it once you get it and not just buying everything you see. That has stuck with me for my whole life.”

Now, Williams like to pass that message on to other young people. During her interviews, she’ll often discuss financial management, and what she’s learned along the way. 

“My family wasn’t wealthy, but we were always taught that when you work hard, you reap the benefits as a result,” Williams told NBC News. “I think it’s important for young people to really understand how to spend money — including how to better self-evaluate needs and wants — to make truly informed decisions versus spending from pure emotion. This is still something that’s true for me, and an approach I believe is incredibly important for parents to teach and model, as well.”

What does Serena Williams do with her money?

Spending has never been a big priority for Williams. As she explained to Uninterrupted, she wanted to be a professional tennis player for the love of the game, not for a big paycheck.

When she was little, she imagined holding the winning trophies, but she never even thought about the checks that would follow. It’s of such little importance, that she sometimes forgets that she even has money. When she first started winning tournaments, she would forget to pick up the checks. 

“I never, never picked it up, so at the end of the year, the tournament directors would literally hand me the check because I would never go get it,” Williams told Maverick Carter during his Uninterrupted segment, Kneading Dough. 

But even after she finally had the check in her hand, Williams still wouldn’t hit the stores. Even her very first large paycheck of over a million dollars went straight into the bank. 

“I never touched it,” Williams said about her first large check. “I just put it in the bank. And I remember I went through the drive-through to deposit my check, and then they were like, ‘I think you need to come in for this,’ and so I ended up going inside.”

Nowadays, Williams has gotten a little better at splurging on herself. But she still spends most of her money on investments, rather than luxury items.

Serena Ventures invests in start-ups with good ideas, especially in natural health, and companies started by women and black people. Her investment group has given a leg-up to successful businesses like Billie, Good Harvest, and Noom. 

Honestly, what an amazing way for her money to make a difference in the world, not just for her.