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The Money Advice Serena Williams Would Give Her Younger Self is Something Anyone Can Benefit From

By: Kathleen Elkins  |  Last Updated: November 2, 2020

Serena Williams started earning a lot of money from an early age. The tennis star won her first major, the 1999 U.S. Open, at age 17. Today, at 39, she’s a 23-time Grand Slam champion and has earned $93.6 million in prize money, as of November 2020.

Her first big paycheck was “like a million dollar check,” she recalled during a recent conversation with Chase about staying financially fit. Unsure of what to do with her earnings, Williams, a teenager at the time, went to the drive-through lane at her bank and asked to deposit the seven-figure check. “They were like, ‘I think you need to come inside for this.’”

Williams, who grew up in Compton, CA, was taught from a young age the importance of saving: “My dad always said, ‘Athletes lose their money. You have to learn to save.’ He always was talking about the importance of not losing it once you get it and not just buying everything you see — and that has stuck with me my whole life. When you get something, have a plan for what you want to do with it and how you want to spend or invest or save it.”

She was always intentional about saving her income, but she didn’t understand until later in her career the importance of taking the next step and investing her savings — and that’s what she would explain to her younger self.

“I wish I’d learned more about banking and how it works: What happens in a savings account versus what happens in a checking account versus what happens when you invest your money,” she told Chase. “I really wish I’d learned that sooner because then I could have made my money work in different ways for me — and probably better.”

The tennis champion is right: Her money could have worked much harder for her had she put it in an investment account, rather than letting it set in a savings account. The national average interest rate on savings accounts is 0.05%. That means that if you have any money sitting in a standard savings account, it’s likely earning next to nothing in interest. 

Williams’ $1 million would have earned just $500 in interest if it sat in a standard savings account for one year. Over 10 years, it would have earned a little over $5,000 and over 20 years, about $10,000. That sounds pretty good for not having to do anything, but compare that to the returns she could have seen if her money was invested in the stock market. 

The average stock market return is 10% annually. If Williams invested her $1 million and earned 10%, she’d have a total of $2.59 million after 10 years. Over 20 years, her $1 million would have grown to $6.73 million. Even if you use a more conservative rate of return, say 6%, she’d have $1.79 million after 10 years and $3.21 million after 20 years.

The point is, your money can work a lot harder for you if it’s invested, rather than sitting in a savings account — and this is true for anyone.

By the way, investing doesn’t have to be as complicated as you may think it is. 

The simplest way to put your money to work is to use a retirement plan, like a 401(k) or IRA (individual retirement account). There are also micro-investing apps like Acorns, Robinhood and Stash, and robo-advisors like Betterment or Wealthfront, that make investing incredibly simple. You don’t need a lot of money or time to get started if you use one of these platforms. 

To make investing a habit, put it on autopilot — meaning, have money automatically taken out of your paycheck or checking account and deposited into your investment account, where it will compound over time.

Even if you’re not earning millions like Serena Williams, smart and consistent investing can certainly make you a millionaire over time.

Read next: David’s 11 Money Tips to Start Living Rich Today