Serena Williams is considered by many to be the greatest female tennis player ever. But the fierce ambition and talent that earned her that recognition goes beyond the sports world.
As the first athlete ever to find their name on the list of Forbes' World's Richest Self-Made Women, this business entrepreneur has invested in several start-ups. In April 2020, she formed Serena Ventures, which invests in "founders who are changing the world with their ideas and products."
The owner of the greatest serve in women's tennis learned discipline and ambition from her father, who helped raise two future Tennis Hall of Fame sure-bets (Venus Williams being the other tennis great). But he also taught them much more about success in life: "I used to take Venus and Serena to work with me so they could learn the importance of planning, responsibility, and a strong work ethic, even at their early age," said her dad, Richard Williams.
It's not surprising, therefore, that Serena is now worth $225 million, and while she makes a small fortune through her sports winnings and endorsements, the bulk of her wealth actually comes from her investment efforts.
What's her secret? And what can we all learn from her efforts? Here are four surefire investment tips from Serena Williams that can help any investor be successful.
Tip 1: If you fail, get up and start again
Serena's life hasn't been all serving aces and Grand Slam tournament wins. She's faced racism and sexism throughout her career, was overshadowed by her sister Venus' success during her early years, had blood clots twice in her lungs, and came close to dying after the birth of her daughter. But none of that stopped her. She has surpassed Venus in tournament wins and went back to the women's pro tour after becoming a mom.
As an early investor, she lost $250,000 in a start-up, but instead of throwing in the towel, she rose back up and continued investing. This ultimately led to the formation of Serena Ventures, through which the perennial No. 1 seed has given seed money to 34 companies.
Tip 2: Build a winning team around you
Power is knowing what you don't know and building a team around you that can fill in the knowledge gaps. "If you're going to partner with someone, make sure you have good partners," Williams says.
To that end, Serena has joined with Alison Rapaport, CFA, a portfolio manager with an MBA from Harvard University and experience in JPMorgan's asset management group. The partnership has enabled Serena Investments to ramp up its holdings. The tennis great also seeks advice from good friends, especially Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg and, of course, her husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.
As an investor, it's important to build a team of financial professionals around you, including a financial advisor, tax planning professional, and accountant. These people can handle retirement, legal, and tax issues, freeing you to focus on your investments and your life.
Tip 3: Save your hard-earned dollars and invest them
Although Serena can purchase anything she wants, her motto has always been to save, save, save. After she won her first $1 million, she took it directly to the bank. She said:
I usually invest my funds. I am the most boring spender ever. Don't spend it, invest it.
It's no secret that before you can invest money, you need to earn it and save it. If you don't have that discipline, it's time to develop it. Begin by creating good habits: put a portion of each paycheck into a savings account, develop a budget and stick to it, and cut back on frivolous spending. This may be challenging, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
Tip 4: Believe in the products you invest in
On the podcast Kneading Dough, Williams shared about choosing an investment: "Is it something you believe in? I never do anything if I don't really believe in the product."
This concept of buying what you know and believe in is shared by many other successful investors. Peter Lynch, author of One Up on Wall Street, made the concept famous. And he should know: He generated annual returns of approximately 29% from the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1977-1990. And super investor Warren Buffett is a well-known advocate of that concept, as well.
A winner in sports -- and business
Serena has changed the face of women's tennis with her aggressive style of play and never-give-up attitude. These same qualities have made her a winner in business, as well. You may never win a grand slam or be able to pull an ace out of your sleeve when you need it, but you can use these tips from an up-and-coming master investor to carve out a path to wealth.