‘You Need to Come Inside for This’: Serena Williams Says She Tried to Deposit a $1 Million Check in a Bank Drive Thru

Tennis champion Serena Williams has been managing her own finances since she was just 16. Her father and former coach aimed to instill a sense of financial responsibility early on by entrusting her with range over her money.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 25: Serena Williams arrives to the 54th Annual NAACP Image Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 25, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

But, according to a new interview with the seven-time Wimbledon champion, the purse didn’t always drive the young athlete.

The tiger-eyed Compton native is a competitor at her core and admitted that her primary focus has always been on winning matches rather than securing the substantial, often seven-figure, prize money.

Banking Lessons

Williams appeared as a guest on the hit Complex YouTube show “Hot Ones” hosted by Sean Evan and dished on her sometimes-irreverent attitude about money while chomping down on Scoville escalating hot wings. She recounted the time she tried to deposit a $1 million check in a bank drive-thru.

Evans asked her, “Is it true that you rarely collected your winnings your first year on tour and then once tried unsuccessfully to cash your first million-dollar check in a drive-thru yeah?”

“All true,” Williams said.

“I never played for money. I played because I loved the sport. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win. I didn’t even know at the time if I wanted to be the best. I just wanted to win,” she said, before continuing, “So, my tax guy, he would be like, ‘You didn’t get your money’ … and I would be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t get that one in Zurich, I forgot that one in Moscow.’ I was just playing to win, and if I didn’t win, I was just not thinking.”

According to her financial team kept tabs on the major monies she was supposed to receive for participating in tournaments.

She said, “They were like, I got my check and it was a million dollars. [I’m] like, ‘OK, I’m going to go deposit it.’”

“So I just went to the drive-thru, and the guy was like, ‘Uh, I think you need to come inside for this!'” she recalled.

Williams has been wealthy for a long time. When most teens were making minimum wage at a fast-food joint, she had already secured her first million-dollar endorsement deal. In fact, between the ages of 16 to 20, she earned a total of $13 million through endorsements.

During an interview on Bloomberg Originals’ “The Deal” podcast, hosted by Alex Rodriguez and Jason Kelly, she talked about the huge responsibility she had at a young age to manage her money and work with advisers.

 “Literally, my first checks from whether it was Puma, like I got these huge checks,” Williams said. “[My dad], he’s like, you figure it out. We had to figure it out.”

“I’m literally living at his house in the bedroom next to Venus. I was 16 and he’s like, you know, most parents, you know, they take your money. They take something. But you know, he’s like, ‘You figure it out.’ And so I remember having to figure that out and having to learn how to manage from a very early age. Yeah. And not get crazy with it. And so he empowered us to do that,” she said.

Now, at 42 years old and with an estimated net worth of $340 million, Williams is the richest female athlete in the world — and will surely not be depositing any of those new zeroes in the ATM.

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