Serena Williams on managing money, whether you’re broke or a tennis superstar

Tennis superstar Serena Williams, who rose from modest beginnings to earning millions during her luminous career, says her outlook on money has not changed: Be responsible and manage your spending.

That was the overall theme of her message to college students of historically Black colleges and young professionals during a webcast focusing on money management.

Williams, who used the JPMorgan Chase Chats for an open conversation about money with a young adult audience from across the country, said her family was not well off growing up, but managing spending was emphasized when she was a kid.

“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 via email. “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.”

Her father, Richard, not only got Williams and her sister Venus into tennis, helping to foster one of the most successful duos in the sport’s history, but he also used other athletes’ stories to illuminate a larger point for his daughters.

“At a young age, it was instilled in me that I shouldn’t splurge,” Williams said. “I remember going to parks and playing tennis with my dad and he’d say, ‘Athletes always lose their money.’ He made it clear that as an athlete, there was a risk of losing what you earned.”

She added, “I think this idea rings true no matter what you do. As a result, the concept of saving money stuck with me throughout my career. Even early on, I remained focused on the fact that when I earned money, I needed to be mindful of how those dollars were either spent, invested or saved.”

Leslie Gillin, chief marketing officer for JPMorgan Chase, said the company partnered with Williams because she has “first-hand experience in what it takes to persevere, redirect and make opportunities work … She has great insights into how to know your worth, learning to manage her earnings and prioritize savings, and learn how to build for the future.”

Williams, who is scheduled to compete this week in the U.S. Open in pursuit of her 24th Grand Slam title, has made more money playing tennis ($92.7 million) than any woman in the history of the game.

Now a 38-year-old mother, Williams said she curbed her spending through her young adult years, but still wasn’t fully educated on money management.

“When I received my first bit of prize money, I knew right away I needed to put it in the bank,” Williams, who has earned another $90 million in endorsements over her career, said. “Though I had the money, what I didn’t have was the understanding of how it works. For example, what happens if you put money into a savings account, invest it, or just deposit it in a checking account? I didn’t learn those things until later in my career.

“However, as I matured,” she added, “I realized that earning money is a reward, and those rewards have to be treated with the utmost care and consideration, and it is important to keep more of what you earn and make it grow for the future.”

During the webcast, Williams said she wanted young viewers — no matter how much money they had — to learn how to be responsible with it, especially when some people may have extra time during the pandemic without school or full-time work.

“Learn! Think about new skills. Innovate. Get creative with your time. And in all of that, think about how to make the most of any money coming in,” she said, adding, “the earlier we learn how to manage what we earn and save, the more ready we are to face life’s ups and downs.”

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