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Our Richest Presidents

white-house

A newly revised study finds that our first President was also our wealthiest, even after adjusting wealth and income of his 42 successors for inflation:

Three years ago, 24/7 Wall St. published the net worth of every American president, from George Washington to Barack Obama. We have updated our numbers to reflect the earnings of the still-living presidents. One thing remains clear: it pays to be president, especially after leaving office. 24/7 Wall St. examined the finances of all 43 presidents to identify the richest.

In our updated list, the only currently living president who makes the wealthiest list is Bill Clinton, who has an estimated net worth of $55 million. Clinton continues to make millions of dollars in speaking fees. This January, following an email from Bill Clinton to supporters, Hilary Clinton’s 2008 campaign debt was paid off.

President Obama is not one of the wealthiest presidents of all times. Yet his net worth increased from $5 million in 2010 to an estimated $7 million, primarily from his book sales. If Bill Clinton is any indication, Obama can expect to make much more money in speaking engagements once he exits office in 2017.

The net worth of the presidents varies widely. Washington amassed over half a billion in today’s dollars, while other presidents went bankrupt. The fortunes of America’s presidents are often tied to the economy of their time. Over time, as the focus of the economy has changed, so has the way the presidents made their money.

The first few presidents — from Washington’s election to about 75 years later — were large landowners. They generally made money from land, crops and commodity speculation. This left them highly vulnerable to poor crop yields, and they could lose most or all of their properties because of a few bad years. Similarly, they could lose all of their money through land speculation — leveraging the value of one piece of land to buy additional property.

Washington is at the top of the list with a net worth of $525 million in 2010 dollars, followed by fellow Virginia landowners Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Andrew Jackson, who was also a large landowner, and Theodore Roosevelt, whose wealth came from far different sources.  Others on the list include Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    Lest we forget, a lot of the wealth of those early Presidents-especially Washington-consisted of slaves, and it was slave labor that made those lands profitable. Just sayin’.

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  2. John Peabody says:

    Whiskey- Washington also made tons of money from whiskey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. DrDaveT says:

    even after adjusting wealth and income of his 42 successors for inflation

    I think you mean only after adjusting for inflation.

    Also, at what point in their lives are we looking? Jefferson was deeply in debt at his death; he was probably the poorest President. If he’s near the top of this list, someone has either made a mistake or is using peak wealth as their measure.

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  4. JohnMcC says:

    The Original Post makes me think of one of my favorite stories — how in 1953, Mr Harry Truman loaded up the family Buick and drove himself and Bess home to Missouri. They were unaccompanied. His only income was an Army pension ($112/month). Congress could actually feel shame in those days and voted him an income of $25K.

    Offered lucrative positions of corporate boards, he declined. He said: “I would never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize the office of the the Presidency.”

    Tough as a pine knot! Straight as a string! Gave ‘em hell, too.

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  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Well, in fairness it was actually Martha who was wealthy.

    That does bring up something we tend to forget. 300 years ago a “general” wasn’t the sort of career officer we have now. Your rank was based at least in part on the number of soldiers you could afford to feed and equip.

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  6. An Interested Party says:

    Offered lucrative positions of corporate boards, he declined. He said: “I would never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize the office of the the Presidency.”

    With the venal politicians we have these days, that story seems more like myth than fact…

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  7. bill says:

    @stonetools: yup, bought from africans too! at least we don’t do the slavery thing anymore, unlike some parts of africa today- the irony isn’t lost on you is it?
    notice there’s not a lot of republicans on the list either, more irony unless you’re blind. that hillary had the nads to say they were broke when they left the white house is hysterical…..limousine liberals to the core.

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