Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has claimed a fortune of more than $10 billion. That’s the sort of claim that journalists find hard to resist when it comes from someone seeking the highest office in the land.
Back in September, Forbes estimated Trump’s worth at $4.5 billion and Trump said, “I’m worth much more.” Fortune magazine even built a calculator claiming that readers could use it to estimate their own net worth using “The Donald’s math.”
It’s worth noting that Trump once estimated that his “brand” is worth $3 billion. That, of course, is not cash or any other tangible asset, but there is certainly value there.
In July, Bloomberg News put a value of $2.9 billion on Trump’s wealth, and the reality TV star said that Michael Bloomberg, founder of the media empire, may have “told them to do it” because “he always wanted to do what I’m doing.” We think that means run for president, but perhaps Trump was suggesting that Bloomberg wanted to be a real-estate developer and reality TV star.
When Trump and his four brothers inherited their father’s real-estate business in 1974, the company was valued at an estimated $200 million. Trump’s share would have been worth $40 million. According to Vox.com, if Trump had invested that $40 million in an S&P 500 index fund in 1974, and reinvested all the dividends, not cash out and paid no fees, by August of 2015 he would have been worth $3.4 billion.
The Associated Press reckons that if Trump had invested $200 million in an index fund in 1988 (a Forbes estimate of Trump’s value at that time), Trump would be worth $13 billion today. A similar calculation using an S&P calculator figures he would be worth $11.3 billion after fees and taxes.
How does Trump calculate his own net worth? In a deposition he gave in a 2006 lawsuit, here’s what he said:
Q. Let me just understand that a little bit. Let’s talk about net worth for a second. You said that the net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?
A. Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day. Then you have a September 11th, and you don’t feel so good about yourself and you don’t feel so good about the world and you don’t feel so good about New York City. Then you have a year later, and the city is as hot as a pistol. Even months after that it was a different feeling. So yeah, even my own feelings affect my value to myself.
Q. When you publicly state what you’re worth, what do you base that number on?
A. I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies.