Based on campaign finance reports, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Marco Rubio, who at one point were among the leading candidates for the nation’s highest office, are each likely worth less than $500,000. Should either candidate have been elected, it would have been a departure from the recent trend. Each of the last five presidents have had net worths of at least $1 million. The current president, Donald Trump, is likely worth billions, and is the wealthiest president of all time.
Sanders and Rubio’s net worth does not match the wealth of former President Obama, whose estate we price at $7 million, or the $75 million combined estate of former president Bill Clinton and current presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. However, they have by no means experienced the financial destitution some of our nation’s leaders have faced.
24/7 Wall St. examined the finances of all 43 presidents and found eight that became insolvent at one time or another during their adult lifetimes. Jefferson had a passion for expensive homes, land, and personal property. Madison was a poor judge of real estate values and gambled that his plantations would produce outsized crop production. William Henry Harrison had bad luck with the weather which destroyed his wheat and corn.
By the middle of the 19th century, land ownership went from being common to unusual. Lincoln lost everything when the general store he owned with a partner failed. An associate of Grant’s son ran through the former Union general’s entire fortune. The depression of 1893 ruined the value of McKinley’s investment in a tin plate company. Truman lost the clothing store that he owned with a partner.
As we observed in the Net Worth of the American Presidents, the nation’s chief executives were men of their times, at least financially. What is striking is the extent to which many were gamblers. Some, like Hoover, bet and won. He became wealthy in the mining business. LBJ made money as a cattle rancher, a risky business depending on the national appetite for beef and, to some extent the weather.
It could be argued that men who are willing to lead the nation into war, annex millions of square miles of territory or drop the atomic bomb to end a war were by their nature risk takers. Whether that is a better trait for managing personal wealth or the nation’s fortunes is for history to decide.
These are America’s poorest presidents.