She’s only 28 years old, but tennis player Maria Sharapova is at the top of her game as the world’s wealthiest female athlete.
She earned almost $30 million last year and has accumulated a net worth of nearly $200 million.
Arriving in the States speaking no English and with no money in her pocket, how did she manage to make so much out of so little?
Here’s 6 top tips from her money gamebook that you can apply to your own winning strategy:
1). She did it the old-fashioned way. It took a lot of hard work, training and sacrifice to get to the top. Maria was born in Siberia after her parents abandoned their previous home near Chernobyl, fearful of the radiation contaminating their hometown. Moving to the Olympic host city of Sochi at the age of two, she started practicing tennis regularly with her father at a local park.
At the age of six, her talent was spotted during a Moscow tennis clinic by Martina Navratilova, who recommended Maria come to Florida for tennis training. Her mother couldn’t get a visa, so the seven-year old Sharapova and her father, Yuri, emigrated to Miami all alone. Neither spoke English, and Yuri arrived with $700 in his pocket, borrowed from Maria’s grandparents. Maria’s mom finally joined them in the States when Maria was nine.
It was not an easy path. “During Sharapova’s adolescence, her father worked several jobs at a time—doing construction, sweeping the floors in grocery stores—to try to pay her tennis academy tuition. Because of his schedule, they rarely saw each other during the day, with Yuri leaving meals out for his daughter to warm up. “I spent a lot of time on my own,” she told ESPN,” writes Ashlee Vance in a Bloomberg cover story.
2). Like many smart millennials, she’s planning for her financial future … now. Like many athletes, her playing days are numbered, so she devotes serious time and effort planning for the future. Injuries have already caused her to pull out of tournaments, so her retirement from competition may not be that far away.
But Maria’s already making plans for her post-tennis career. Her sponsorship deals with Nike, Head, Samsung Electronics, Evian, Cole Haan and Tag Heuer bring in $23 million a year in off-court earnings. She’s just been signed to a three-year deal with Porsche, which hopes a prominent female athlete like Sharapova can help it crack the female market. She put $500,000 of her own money into starting up her Sugarpova candy brand, and has branched out into clothing and accessory design.
3). She’s her own boss … and her own brand. Like two-thirds of all millionaires identified in Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D and William Danko, Ph.D’s landmark 1996 book “The Millionnaire Next Door,” Sharapova is a self-employed entrepreneur. Following the lead of fellow phenom Taylor Swift, she makes the rules and controls the tools of her trade, allowing her to control her image, build recurring revenue streams, and reap the maximum rewards. She couldn’t achieve that on someone else’s payroll.
While Sharapova has not succeed in knocking Serena Williams from the coveted #1 spot, “she maintains an intense training schedule during the offseason.” Like many CEOs at the top of their game, she follows a disciplined work and travel schedule to support worldwide business ventures and a carefully cultivated brand image. And when it comes to her own Sugarpova brand, she claims to be “a hands-on businesswoman.” She has always loved desserts. “Two years ago it just hit me: ‘Why not do something with candy and create a business of my own?’”
4). She’s diversifying to protect her portfolio. She’s made a reported $35 million in tennis prize money since turning pro in 2001. While that earns her the #2 spot on the women’s tennis all-time career earnings list, it’s only half of what Serena Williams has made. But like other smart investors, Maria has excelled in diversifying her portfolio and sources of income so if one asset fails, she’s still in the game. Her own line of candy, Sugarpova, has sold 3 million plus bags in over 30 countries and sales doubled in the most recent fiscal year. She owns two mansions, one in Manhattan Beach, CA, and the other on Longboat Key, FL, worth a combined $10 million or more, and is co-owner of a skincare company.
5). She knows the value of good advice. Even though she’s the boss, she made it to the top relying on expert advice from management company IMG Worldwide. She did the hard work on the court, but IMG helped her parlay her success into multi-million dollar endorsement deals, developing her brand so it “transcends” tennis. And smart financial moves like claiming the Longboat home as her residence help her to reduce the tax bite (Florida has no state income tax).
6). She keeps money in perspective. Sharapova still seems to have an appreciation for the things that money can’t buy. She reportedly loves to read (Sherlock Holmes is a favorite), and says she “loves the things you don’t even need to pay for. Going to the beach and being around five of your friends and having a good time means so much more than going out and spending hundreds of dollars.”