There may not be a more powerful job than being the President of the United States. Over the course of 227 years, 44 men have joined this elite group that essentially ruled the world. Unfortunately, ruling the world itself is not that great of a moneymaker. Even if it was, Presidents of the United States have the weight of the world on their shoulders every day. The world has changed considerably from the one that George Washington was a president for, in contrast to the world we currently live in. The value of a dollar has also changed considerably over the course of the 44 presidents’ time in office.
Presidential salaries have increased six times in history.
1789 – $25,000
1873 – $53,000
1909 – $75,000
1949 – $100,000
1969 – $200,000
2001 – $400,000
It is obvious that the salary that the President receives is not enough to make tens of millions of dollars. But being a President has its perks after leaving office, and as you’ll see, for many of these people they had advantages before the oval office as well. The following list is a list of the ten richest Presidents in history. Some on the list used their role of being a former POTUS as a way to generate millions after leaving office, while others made their money by being fortunate enough to be born into or marry into a wealthy family.
The monetary values on the list are adjusted to the current value of the dollar. The dollar amount is also the amount of money that the President had at the height of their wealth.
10. Bill Clinton: $55 Million
The ladies’ man from Arkansas who took the 90s by storm, is the poorest of the wealthiest presidents on this list. Clinton was a career politician and even though career politicians make enough money, they don’t always become millionaires. The real secret to the Clinton fortune comes from Clinton’s life after he was President. Clinton’s biography My Life netted the former president an advance of $15 million. Speaking engagements are also a huge money maker for Clinton. To have the 42nd President of the United States come and give a speech, you will need to pony up $200,000 which is hardly pocket change. Clinton is one of the most charismatic speakers to hold the highest office in the land. Is that charisma worth $200,000?
9. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: $60 Million
Franklin Roosevelt is one of the only Presidents to have a disability that was known to the world. Even though it was known and FDR is one of the most important figures in history, he was very strict about having his picture taken, as polio confined him to a wheelchair. Yet FDR did not allow polio to stop him from serving four terms as President of the United States. The historic length in office may not have been as impressive as FDR’s wealth, which was largely gained through a family inheritance. The family wealth came from Warren Delano Jr., who was the grandfather of FDR, on his mother’s side. Warren made his money by trading in opium and tea deals with China. Through the inheritance, FDR received an 800-acre estate along with other real estate properties in Georgia, Maine, and New York.
8. Herbert Hoover: $75 Million
Contrary to popular belief, Hoover’s fortune has nothing to do with vacuum cleaners. The Hoover fortune came from being a top tier executive for a gold mining company. Hoover’s salary, inflated for today’s standards, was $100,000. By getting trained in geology, Hoover’s skills helped him climb the mining ladder rather quickly and he became manager of one of the mines at the age of 23. Through acquiring other mines in Australia and Africa, it did not take long for Hoover to find himself in a fantastic financial position. When he became President, he did not take the salary that Congress allotted to him, instead donating the salary to charities.
7. Lyndon Johnson: $98 Million
The Johnson fortune came through ownership of a radio and television station in Austin, Texas. Johnson was able to buy the stations due to the inheritance that his wife received. Johnson was able to turn the ownership of the small media stations into a regional powerhouse that began to generate a lot of wealth for him. It is also speculated that a deal with the FCC, while he was president, helped the financial gains of his media corporations. The Johnsons also owned a 1,500-acre ranch in Texas, nicknamed the Texas White House. It is also speculated that he had a hand in the Kennedy assassination. That’s a whole other list by itself.
6. James Madison: $101 Million
Madison was a real estate juggernaut in Orange County, Virginia. Madison owned 5,000 acres in the state. Madison also inherited the tobacco plantation that was owned by his father. The tobacco industry was as huge then as it is now. Madison was the 5th President of the United States and on top of his wealth, is considered to be one of the founding fathers. One of the things that the founding fathers made sure of was to allow capitalism to drive the newly formed country. Madison took advantage of that with his tobacco plantation and generated a fortune.
5. Andrew Jackson $119 Million
Like other presidents on this list, Jackson’s wealth was acquired by marrying into it. Jackson himself was successful in making money once he had some. Jackson acquired the Hermitage Plantation where the main crop was cotton. The plantation started out as 640 acres, but quickly ballooned to 1,050 acres. The cotton was picked originally by the nine slaves that Jackson owned. Through the successful cotton industry, Jackson was able to buy more slaves which meant more hands to plant and pick the cotton that led to even more money. At one point, Jackson had 150 slaves working for him on the Hermitage Plantation. It is speculated that Jackson owned a total of 300 slaves over the course of his life.
4. Teddy Roosevelt $125 Million
Besides speaking softly and carrying a big stick, Roosevelt carried a nice bankroll as well. As a Roosevelt, Teddy was part of the wealth from the Roosevelt family that was passed down the family line through inheritance. From his immediate family, Roosevelt inherited $1.3 million from the death of his father. Roosevelt is famous for his love in nature. The Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is considered as one of the best National Park’s in the country. Roosevelt would eventually lose a bunch of money due to his nature preservation ventures but over time, the estate of Teddy has ballooned to $125 million.
3. Thomas Jefferson: $212 Million
The author of the Declaration of Independence began his wealth building by inheriting thousand of acres of land and dozens of slaves from his father. Monticello, Jefferson’s home, was built on the land that Jefferson inherited. Tobacco was the main crop that was planted on Jefferson’s land, but it was not as profitable as other tobacco plantations. Jefferson was not very good with his finances and died with over $100,000 of debt. As listed in the intro, the amount of money listed for the presidents is valued at the height of their profitability.
2. George Washington: $525 Million
The father of our country who could not tell a lie amassed a fortune of half a billion dollars. Not only did Washington own 8,000 acres of land in Virginia, but his wife, Martha Custis, inherited large clumps of land from her father. The land that Washington owned was worked by over 300 slaves. Being the first president made it difficult to figure out what his salary should be. It eventually worked out to being $25,000 which was about 2 percent of the federal budget at the time. At the time of his death, Washington’s estate was worth $530,000 (not adjusted for today’s inflation).
1. John F. Kennedy: $1 Billion
The Kennedys are as close to royalty as you can get in the United States. The Kennedy trust fund was where the majority of JFK’s money came from. Most of the wealth in the family built by his father, Joe. Depending on what story you believe, Joe made the family fortune either through the stock market and real estate or through bootlegging during prohibition. The Kennedy family wealth alone would have been enough to put JFK on this list, but his wife was an heiress to an oil fortune which contributed to the Kennedy wealth that is listed as $1 billion. The value is in dispute, but many sources have it listed at the billion dollar mark.