'Million Dollar Listing' star Ryan Serhant: How I learned about money

Ryan Serhant visits Build Brunch to discuss "Sell It Like Serhant: How to Sell More, Earn More, and Become the Ultimate Sales Machine" at Build Studio on Sept. 20, 2018, in New York City.
Roy Rochlin | Getty Images

Real estate broker Ryan Serhant, star of the Bravo series "Million Dollar Listing" and "Sell it Like Serhant," sat down with Grow for the first installment of our new series in which we ask authors, TV personalities, CEOs, and more how they first learned about money.

Here is Serhant's story, as told to senior reporter Sam Becker.

My work ethic: 'If you work harder, you get more money'

My parents were smart with us. They taught us the value of the dollar and the value of hard work. I think that was the most important thing that they wanted us to understand.

We never got money for free. It always had to come with some type of work. And it wasn't just chores: It was manual labor, outside. It was shoveling for neighbors when it would snow, for example. If we wanted money, we had to work for it. That was instilled into my brain for as long as I can remember.

My brothers and sisters all say the same thing. Our parents really, really, really pushed on us that if you want money you have to work for it, and if you work harder, you get more money. That's it. It's not that hard. That's how you make it happen. Then with that money you can go and buy things that you want, or you can invest it or you can save it. You can do whatever you want.

If we wanted money, we had to work for it. That was instilled into my brain for as long as I can remember.
Ryan Serhant
Real estate broker, author, and TV star

My earning strategy: 'Be yourself, know your stuff'

I distinctly remember what it was like to be in New York City in the summer of 2008 with no money. I had no idea how I was going to pay my rent come September 1. I had no idea how I was going to buy groceries. I had no idea what I was going to do.

And that is a terrifying, sickening, awful feeling. If you've ever been that broke — anywhere, but especially in New York City where everything is really expensive — I feel for you. You know what I'm talking about.

That is really what pushed me to get into real estate. I had a friend who said, "Listen, it doesn't cost anything, just get your real estate license, go out there, and start advising people and showing people rental apartments. You don't have to buy anything. You don't have to do anything. All you have to do is be yourself, know your stuff, and people will pay you a fee for showing them apartments."

And that's what I did. And it worked.

I got my first rental commission and it was like $500. I was like, "Yes, 500 bucks! Awesome!" And my next one was $700 and then $1,000, and it grew slowly from there.

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My savings secret: 'I always have a massive, massive rainy day fund'

I save as much money as I possibly can. I'm not cheap when it comes to spending, but I will only buy things, whether it's clothes, homes, or anything else, if it absolutely makes sense and I feel like I'm getting a good deal.

That's because I'm so terrified of going back to that moment in the summer of 2008. I don't ever want to go back to that time of my life ever again. I want to save as much as I possibly can, so now I always have a massive, massive rainy day fund.

But I do buy the occasional nice suit, here and there. I've got to look good. First impressions are last impressions if you're not careful.

Serhant is also the author of the book "Sell It Like Serhant," and his new digital course is available now.

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