While the President of the United States is one of the most esteemed titles in the world, the job actually doesn’t pay as well as one might think. While the annual presidential salary today is $400,000 a year, the president is still expected to pay for a lot of their own expenses, and the amount is a fraction of the salary most high-up CEOs and executives make. Yet, many of the men who have held the position of the presidency didn’t need the salary in the first place. In most cases, America’s past presidents have been men who either earned or inherited fortunes before ever entering the office. Read on to see how much these presidents were worth during their peaks, in terms of today’s dollars.
George Washington: $587 Million
George Washington, the first president of the United States, became the sole owner of his Mount Vernon estate in 1761. Located on the banks of the Potomac River, the property was first established by Washington’s great-grandfather John in 1633 and grew drastically over the years.
By the time the plantation landed in George Washington’s hands, it had a total of five farms comprising over 8,000 acres of fertile farmland. Run by over 300 slaves, the land proved to be incredibly lucrative. Furthermore, as president, Washington’s salary was two percent of the US budget in 1789.
John Adams: $21.3 Million
Luckily for John Adams, he inherited a sum of money from his father. Even better, his wife was Abigail Adams, who was originally a Quincy — one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Massachusetts.
John Adams made a name for himself as a distinguished lawyer which also allowed him to grow a massive wealth throughout his life. He also owned an estate known as “Peacefield,” a 40-acre property located in what is now known as Quincy, Massachusetts.
Thomas Jefferson: $236.8 Million
Like Washington before him, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, also owned an extremely successful plantation. The 3,000-acre property in Virginia called “Monticello” was given to Jefferson by his father. He then expanded the land to 5,000 acres and built structures that were considered to be some of the most architecturally advanced of their time.
Run by slaves, much of Jefferson’s wealth came from his plantation. He also grew his wealth while holding various political positions throughout his life. However, when he died, he had been in debt for some time.
Andrew Jackson: $132.6 Million
Andrew Jackson, who served as president from 1829-1837, was well-known for standing up for the middle class. However, he wasn’t part of the middle class himself. He married into a wealthy family and made a considerable amount of money for his military service and work in the government.
At one point, he even grew to become one of the wealthiest presidents of the 1800s, although few knew how wealthy he truly was. He also owned a homestead known as “The Hermitage,” which was over 1,050 acres of good land.
Abraham Lincoln: $1 Million
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and is one of the most well-known in American history. While he may forever be remembered in the annals of history, his net worth was surprisingly low considering his accomplishments and popularity. Born into poverty in a log cabin, he worked odd jobs and ran a general store that eventually failed.
He then persevered to become an attorney, a position which he held for 17 years before his presidency. After becoming president, he didn’t make much money because of the Civil War and because his life was cut short by John Wilkes Booth.
Grover Cleveland: $28.3 Million
Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, serving as the 22nd and the 24th president of the United States. While his father was a small-time bookseller and preacher, his mother was the daughter of a wealthy lawyer.
This eventually led Cleveland to become a successful lawyer himself, a career that he worked for 12 years. He also made a massive profit after selling his estate on the outskirts of Washington DC. He then went on to buy the “Westland Mansion” in Princeton, New Jersey.
Theodore Roosevelt: $138 Million
Like some other presidents, Theodore Roosevelt was born to a wealthy and prominent family, receiving an extremely large trust fund at a relatively young age. However, while adventuring in the Dakotas, he lost a large sum of his wealth on a ranching venture which forced him to become an author to make ends meet.
Before becoming president, he worked in public service for years, where he earned some money here and there. However, much of his wealth came from his property “Sagamore Hill,” a 235-acre estate on one of the most valuable plots of land on Long Island.
Herbert Hoover: $83 Million
Orphaned as a child, Herbert Hoover was raised by his uncle, who was a doctor. Before becoming the 31st president of the United States, Hoover made his fortune working as an executive at a mining company. He held the position for 17 years, receiving a more than ample salary each year.
By the time he became president, he had acquired enough money that he donated his presidential salary to charity. He also owned a large property known as the “Hoover House” located in Monterey, California.
Franklin Roosevelt: $66.8 Million
Franklin Roosevelt was born into and later married into money. After receiving a large inheritance, Roosevelt bought several properties in Georgia, Maine, and New York. Among these was his renowned 800-acre “Springwood” estate in Hyde Park, New York. However, in 1919, Roosevelt received financial help from his mother after almost going bankrupt.
He managed to save himself and made a comfortable living while working as assistant secretary of the Navy before he was president. He also made much of his money while working in public service as the governor of New York and a member of the New York Senate.
John F. Kennedy: $1.1 Billion
The 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy was one of the wealthiest people to ever sit in the oval office. His wife, Jackie, was born to a well-to-do family and Kennedy’s father was one of the wealthiest men in the country.
He was even the first chairman of the SEC. Essentially, almost all of JFK’s wealth, aside from his presidential salary, came from a trust fund that he shared with his other family members. However, he was never able to inherit the massive fortune his father had accumulated over the years.
Lyndon B. Johnson: $109.3 Million
When Lyndon B. Johnson was just a boy, his father managed to lose all of the family’s money in a series of investments. He once noted that “My daddy went busted waiting for cotton to go up to twenty-one cents a pound, and the market fell apart when it hit twenty.”
Over time, Johnson managed to rebuild his family’s wealth and acquired 1,500 acres in Blanco County, Texas where he built his home dubbed the “Texas White House.” He also went on to own a radio and television statement as well as had assets in livestock and private aircraft.
Richard Nixon: $17.2 Million
Richard Nixon did not grow up with much money and certainly didn’t receive an inheritance when he came of age. He had a career in government for most of his life, serving as a senator for some time as well as holding other offices.
However, he made a series of successful real estate investments and became a millionaire. At one point, he sold his New York townhouse to a Syrian ambassador to the US, leading him to purchase various plots of land, including a home in Saddle River, New Jersey.
Gerald Ford: $8.1 Million
Former President Gerald Ford, the 38th president, came from modest means and had no inheritance waiting for him. Instead, he spent his life in public service and owned properties in Michigan, Rancho Mirage, and Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Like some other presidents, he made the majority of his fortune after leaving the White House. After 1976, he began making over $1 million a year from book advances as well as serving on the boards of numerous very lucrative American companies.
Jimmy Carter: $8.1 Million
Jimmy Carter did not grow up privileged. His father was a peanut farmer in Georgia and didn’t leave Carter with much. When his father passed away, Carter took over the peanut farm and did not initially have not much success. But after a few rough years, he managed to turn the farm into a successful agricultural business.
Yet, his success was short-lived and the farm eventually failed after it was left unsupervised when it was put into a blind trust. Carter went on to make his money by writing books. In total, he and his wife have published 25 books and own thousands of acres of land in Georgia.
Ronald Reagan: $14.2 Million
Before Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office as the 40th president of the United States, he got his start in Hollywood. During that time, he made a lot of money as a movie and television actor.
After making a comfortable living, Reagan than began purchasing various properties including a 688-acre estate in Santa Barbara, California. Another way that he made money was being a spokesman for GE, a job that really made him a wealthy man. His autobiography after his presidency didn’t hurt his net worth, either.
George H.W. Bush: $26.3 Million
Although the Bush family is known as being one of the most powerful families in America, that wasn’t always the case for George H.W. Bush. He made his fortune later in life, when he was in charge of an off-shore drilling company.
His work with the drilling company enabled him to purchase millions of dollars worth of property, one being his estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, which is estimated to be worth more than $5 million. President Bush was doing very well for himself long before he stepped foot in the White House.
Bill Clinton: $75.9 Million
Born and raised in Hope, Arkansas, Bill Clinton did not come from a family with a lot of money. In fact, he spent the majority of his life and even his presidency with less money than most people would expect.
It wasn’t until after he left the White House that he began to make some serious cash. Most of his earnings came from book deals and paid speeches. Just for one of his books, My Life, he made a total of $15 million and he hasn’t slowed down since.
George W. Bush: $39.5 Million
Following in the footsteps of his father, George W. Bush made a decent amount of money in the oil business before going into public service and serving as the governor of Texas.
During that time, he made so much money that he owned the Texas Rangers professional baseball team. While he put his money-making on hold while in the office, the cash continued to flow in the millions in speaking fees and book deals after he left the presidency.
Barack Obama: $40 Million
Since leaving office, Barack Obama and his family have been doing just fine financially. Apparently, Obama and his wife Michelle signed a $65 million deal for the rights to their memoir, an impressive deal. On top of that, former presidents tend to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for giving speeches and making appearances.
Obama is no stranger to either, so he’ll likely have a constant income from all of his work outside of the office. According to American University, the Obamas could earn up to $242 million in the upcoming years.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: $9 Million
Eisenhower actually had no inherited wealth and made most of his money on his own through the military. He served in both WW1 and WW2 as a captain, major, and eventually a well-respected general. After WW2, he held multiple high-ranking positions that weren’t exactly high-paying, but set him up to win the 1953 election with ease.
The 34th President of the United States made most of his wealth after the presidency by owning a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Harry S. Truman: $25,000
President Truman may have carried the United States out of World War Two, but he had little control over his finances. Before he inherited the position from F.D.R., Truman lived most of his life in financial trouble. He had a modest upbringing and when he did finally begin to make money, Truman blew it all on bad investments and businesses.
Most of the money he earned as president went to paying off his debts. After he left the White House, Truman and his wife actually lived in his mother-in-law’s house and were kept afloat by a $25,000 annual pension.
Calvin Coolidge: Less Than $1 Million
Before he became the 30th President of the United States, Coolidge was part of a prosperous family. Cal’s father was a farmer and storekeeper in Massachusetts which allowed him to pay for his son to go to law school. He also began making money by writing a newspaper column.
Even though Coolidge’s term ended at the start of the Great Depression, he earned more money later in life. Most of his $1 million net worth came from his private estate “The Beeches” in Northampton, Massachusettes, as well as the advance he received from his autobiography.
Warren G. Harding: $1 Million
The 29th President can thank a smart marriage to his wealthy wife for most of his net worth. Harding’s wife, Florence Mabel Harding, was the eldest child of a prominent banker. During Harding’s term as President, she was often seen to be a socialite and even took part in politics.
That’s not to say Harding didn’t have cash of his own. He worked as a newspaper publisher in Ohio before becoming the Governor, then Senator, of the state.
Woodrow Wilson: Less Than $1 Million
Despite being the President who led the U.S. into World War One and set out foreign policy for the next three decades, Wilson didn’t make much cash for his hard work. He served as President for eight years and suffered a stroke in office, which meant he couldn’t work much after his term had ended.
The $1 million net worth that he died with was primarily from his earnings as the head of Princeton University from 1902-1910, and as the Governor of New Jersey.
William H. Taft: $3 Million
Taft had a long and illustrious career in and out of politics and his final net worth showed it. Taft came from a wealthy family and his father, Alphonso, was a U.S. Attorney General. Taft went to law school and worked as a lawyer for nearly twenty years with the ambition to become a chief justice.
It was only by chance he turned to politics. After he left the office of President in 1913, he returned to private employment and made the rest of his cash as a professor at Yale.
Wiliam McKinley: $1 Million
President William McKinley was the seventh of nine children of a family that mostly did farming and iron working, so it’s safe to say none of his money came from a family inheritance. McKinley got his first job as a postal clerk during college and continued working in public service ever since.
Most of McKinley’s net worth comes from his years in office. He was a House of Representative member, a Governor, and eventually the 25th President of the United States.
Benjamin Harrison: $6 Million
Despite being the great-grandson of a founding father, Benjamin Harrison’s net worth didn’t come from inheritance or his four years in public service. Instead, his years as a private lawyer paid off.
Before and after becoming President, Harrison was an esteemed and highly-paid attorney in Ohio. Most notably, he served as an attorney of the Republic of Venezuela when they were in a legal dispute with the United Kingdom. That case is said to have gained him more money and fame than being President.
Chester A. Arthur: Less Than $1 Million
As the son of an Irish preacher, President Arthur didn’t grow up with much money. Arthur practiced law during the American Civil War and following the war, turned to politics. It was here that he made most of his fortune, when President Grant appointed him to be the Collector of the Port of New York.
Thanks to his time as Collector, Arthur buil a substantial enough fortune to furnish his townhouse in New York City with Tiffany & Co. furniture.
James A. Garfield: Less Than $1 Million
President Garfield was born in a small, one-room log cabin in Ohio so it’s pretty impressive that he ended with a net worth of anywhere close to $1 million. Still, he came from humble roots and that was evident his entire life. Although he spent 18 years in the House of Representative, he only owned a small home and property in Mentor, Ohio.
Garfield is also one of the select Presidents who was assassinated. He only spent one year in office so he didn’t exactly have a lot of time to amass wealth.
Rutherford B. Hayes: $3 Million
Rutherford B. Hayes grew up in a modest household as the son of a shopkeeper. As such, he took it upon himself to amass his own fortune and enrolled in law school. Hayes was a successful lawyer for 15 years and made enough that he held lifetime memberships to the Odd Fellows Club and Cincinnati Literary Society.
Thanks to his money from his days as a lawyer, Hayes retired from the White House to a comfortable 10,000 square foot home in Fremont, Ohio that he named “Spiegel Grove.”
Ulysses S. Grant: Less Than $1 Million
The former General and 18th President of the United States actually grew up with substantial wealth. He was the son of a tanner and his grandfather was a wealthy merchant. Unfortunately, Grant lost all of his inherited fortunes when he was swindled by an investing partner.
After Grant’s military career and presidential terms ended, he and his family scraped by with the money he earned from his autobiography. Grant died peacefully in his small, modest home in Illinois.
Andrew Johnson: Less Than $1 Million
Historians regularly call Johnson one of the worst Presidents in American history, and he was also one of the poorest. Johnson was born into poverty as the son of a tailor and shoemaker and had little wealth growing up. He actually never even attended school.
Johnson worked for years as a politician until the assassination of Abraham Lincoln left him, as vice president, to assume the highest office. The only problem was his term was plagued with scandals, dislike, and his impeachment. Johnson died with little respect or money.
James Buchanan: Less Than $1 Million
It’s a good thing that James Buchanan is the only President to have never been married because he wouldn’t have had enough money for a good divorce settlement. Buchanan grew up in a log cabin as one of eleven children. He would have lived in poverty all his life had his father not moved to a farm and become the wealthiest person in town.
That allowed Buchanan to eventually go to school and begin his own law practice. By 1821, he was earning more than $200,000 a year.
Franklin Pierce: $2 Million
Pierce’s wealth comes from his frontier farming father. His father had purchased 50 acres of land after the American Revolutionary War which allowed them to be one of the wealthiest families in the area. Pierce went to law school and worked as an attorney for 16 years.
Pierce’s net worth was helped out in 1934 when he married Jane Appleton, the daughter of a wealthy American aristocrat. The large property that the couple bought with their riches in Concord, New Hampshire, is still standing today.
Millard Fillmore: $4 Million
Neither Millard Fillmore nor his first wife Abigail held any significant inheritance. He made all of his money after his years in politics by founding a college. Fillmore founded The State University of New York at Buffalo and actually served as its first chancellor.
During this time, Fillmore also remarried a woman named Caroline McIntosh, who was a widow that had inherited her entire husband’s wealth. The two spent most of their retired years as philanthropists.
Zachary Taylor: $7 Million
Taylor can thank his well-to-do family for letting him grow up surrounded by wealth. Former President Zachary Taylor’s family owned a plantation in Virginia. His family was prominent in local politics as they had ancestors who came over on the Mayflower.
Taylor inherited not only his family’s wealth but also a lot of land. As one point, he owned property in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Taylor used the land to turn a profit and made a fortune in land speculation, bank investments, and utility stocks.
James K. Polk: $11 Million
Former President Polk’s fortune came for a combination of inherited land and a successful law practice. Polk’s family were plantation owners who built their fortune on the backs of others. At one point, Polk actually owned a 920-acre plantation in Mississippi and 25 slaves.
This fortune was combined with his wife, Sarah Childress’, own inherited fortune. Her family was also plantation and slave owners. Their mansion in Tennessee has been demolished but photos of the inside show the lavish Victorian decor.
John Tyler: $57 Million
The 10th President of the United States was born to a prominent Virginian family. The Tylers could trace their lineage back to Williamsburg and his father, John Tyler Sr., was a college roommate of Thomas Jefferson.
The family was well-off and while Tyler was practicing law, he inherited a 1,000-acre tobacco farm that provided most of their wealth. While it’s rumored he lost all his money in the Civil War and died poor, it’s practically the complete opposite. Tyler and his wife Letitia lived in a lavish 1,600-acre estate they named “Sherwood Manor” until their death.
William Henry Harrison: $6 Million
Even though Harrison was the son of one of the founding fathers, it was his marriage to Anna Symmes that left him with a $6 million fortune. Anna was the daughter of a judge and colonel from the American Revolution War.
The couple eloped without the permission of Anna’s father and when they returned, he father was skeptical that Harrison could support the family. To make sure they were well off, Anna’s father sold the couple 160 acres of land which was how they made their wealth.
Martin Van Buren: $29 Million
Van Buren’s long career in politics and law led him to amass a fortune and estate worth $29 million. Van Buren’s father owned an inn and tavern in Kinderhook, New York, that was incredibly profitable. This allowed Van Buren to go to law school where he had a very successful career as an attorney.
Van Buren then turned his eye to politics and is one of the only two men to be secretary of state, vice president, and president. His long time in public service left him with a 225-acre estate in New York.
John Quincy Adams: $23 Million
It’s no surprise that most of John Quincy Adams’ wealth was thanks to his father, that second President John Adams. Quincy Adams inherited the 40-acre estate “Peacefield” and was actually financially dependent on his parents for most of his early life.
It wasn’t until Quincy Adams attended law school at Harvard and opened his own practice that he began to gain financial independence. By the time he left office in 1829, he had actually gained a greater fortune than this father.
James Monroe: $30 Million
As one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, James Monroe got his start in politics thanks to being a wealthy immigrant family. His great-great-grandfather emigrated from Scotland and bought a large piece of land, which made the family very wealthy. Monroe’s mother was the daughter of a rich Welsh immigrant.
Thanks to his wealth, Monroe was able to build up a prosperous 3,500-acre plantation in Highland which left him with a $30 million fortune.
James Madison: $112 Million
James Madison wasn’t just regular wealthy, he was actually the largest landowner in all of Orange Country, Virginia. His land holdings totaled more than 5,000 acres and several profitable plantations. Madison’s mother also inherited vast wealth from a tobacco plantation.
The fourth President of the United States went on to own even more land and slaves over his life and made substantial earnings as secretary of state and president. Even though he lost money towards the end of his life, Madison still died with a $112 million fortune.