10 Richest US Presidents
On November 8, Americans will go to the polls to elect the 45th President of the United States. While this year’s election is in many ways highly unusual, the two major party candidates share at least one characteristic with previous presidents: extraordinary wealth. Regardless of who moves into the oval office as the next president, he or she will rank among the wealthiest presidents in American history.
In 2010, 24/7 Wall St. published The Net worth of Every American President, from George Washington to Barack Obama. We have updated our figures each year to reflect the earnings of the still-living presidents. Through this analysis, we identified the 10 presidents with the highest net worth. In this year’s updated list, the only living president who is counted among the 10 wealthiest is Bill Clinton. If elected, Hillary Clinton would also be counted among the wealthiest presidents.
Secretary Clinton received an estimated $14 million advance on her book in 2014, and like her husband, she has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for her various speaking engagements. We estimate that the couple has a combined net worth of $75 million, which ranks ninth highest among all U.S. presidential estates.
Clinton’s fortune, along with that of every other president in U.S. history, is likely dwarfed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s net worth. Since Trump has not yet made his tax returns public, his net worth is difficult to assess. Conflicting statements from the real estate tycoon himself further complicate the accuracy of any estimate. Based on financial disclosures, 24/7 Wall St. estimates that Trump’s net worth falls between $2.9 and $10 billion.
The net worth of America’s presidents is often tied to the economic conditions of their time. It is not surprising therefore to find that the first few presidents were owners of large plantations, farmlands, and slaves. They generally made money from crops, and commodity speculation. This left them also highly vulnerable to poor crop yields and the risk of losing most or all of their properties because of a few bad years.
By 1850, the financial history of the presidency entered a new era. Beginning with Millard Fillmore, most presidents were lawyers who spent years in public service. They rarely amassed large fortunes, and their wealth almost entirely consisted of their salaries. James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Garfield had modest net worths when they died.
Over the course of the 20th century, the growth of now-dominant U.S. industries changed not just how presidents would come to earn their fortunes, but also influenced who would even have the opportunity to be elected to the nation’s top political office.
John F. Kennedy was wealthy because of the financial empire his father, Joseph Kennedy, built. Herbert Hoover made millions of dollars as the owner of mining companies. Many more presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and both George W. and George H.W. Bush inherited wealth their families generated during the industrial revolution and the gilded era.
The net worth figures of the 10 wealthiest presidents are in 2016 dollars. Because several of the presidents, particularly in the early 19th century, made and lost huge fortunes in a matter of a few years, the net worth of each president reflects peak wealth. In the case of each president, we have taken into account hard assets such as real estate, estimated lifetime savings based on work history, and inheritance. We also considered annual salaries, incomes earned from royalties on books, ownership of companies, yields from family estates, and other forms of income.
The net worth of presidents that died in old age was easier to estimate, as they almost always owned all of the wealth they stood to gain from inheritance and trusts. Determining the exact wealth of men like John F. Kennedy, who died at 46, was substantially more difficult. We estimate Kennedy’s net worth was $1.1 billion based on the total size of his family’s estate. However, because Kennedy died before he inherited most of these funds, his net worth was enough to justify his inclusion on this list but not sufficient for a number one position.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this piece inaccurately depicted John F. Kennedy’s age at death. He was 46 when he was assassinated in 1963.
This is 24/7 Wall St.’s list of the richest U.S. presidents.