No one really sets out to become a president for the money. That’s because on average, presidents only typically make around $300,000 per year. Most of the US presidents – current one included – had plenty of money before they ever ran for office.
We’ve put together a list of 30 former, very wealthy presidents. Read on to learn which president has become the wealthiest over time?
President George Bush Sr.
Net Worth: $26M
George H.W Bush grew up Connecticut within a wealthy family, the son of an investment banker. He may have grown up in wealth, but he still entered into public service. First, he joined the navy, serving during WWII, from 42’-45’. After his time in the military, he attended Yale where he was initiated into the infamous secret society, Skull and Bones. After graduation, he worked in the oil industry for several years before entering into politics.
Although Bush spent a large portion of his adult life living in Texas, he returned to the Northeast to purchase the famous Bush family vacation home in Kennebunkport, ME. The property is reportedly worth over $5 million and is where the family spends a lot of their time in the warmer months. Bush may have amassed a fortune of over $25 million, but he spent his life in public service, devoting his days to serving his country.
Net Worth: $40M
Barack Obama is hands-down one of the most popular presidents in modern history. The majority of his $40 million fortune comes through all of his press and media deals, along with his $600,000 presidential pension. Obama has also authored several books, including 2 that ended up on the New York Times Bestsellers list. The former president has an author page on Amazon where he sells digital forms of those books: Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.
Perhaps the reasoning behind his amazing book sales would be that he left his second-term in office as a very popular man, considering the fact he established the ACA and more. Aside from the books, he and his wife have also partnered with Netflix to produce a variety of shows and movies and have also recently entered into the podcast business.
Net Worth: $2M
President Franklin Pierce got his start in politics at the young age of 24. Benjamin Pierce, his father, was a leader in politics himself, and helped to get his son’s foot in the door. Franklin was very charismatic and was a natural public speaker, which paved a very bright path for him in politics and helped him to build himself a nice $2 million net worth.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that his wife, Jane Appleton, came from a wealthy family of her own. In fact, she was the daughter of a former president of Bowdoin University, which is where he ended up going to college. Pierce was the youngest person in history to be elected president in 1853 when he was just 47 years old – a feat that earned him the nickname, “Young Hickory,” among supporters.
Net Worth: $67M
FDR grew up in a fairly wealthy family, the son of a businessman and landowner. His parents sent him to an exclusive private school when he was a teenager, where the sons of some of the most powerful men in the country attended. Later, he went to Harvard and Columbia and eventually passed the bar. He also married his cousin, and the niece of Theodore Roosevelt – Sara, who obviously came from plenty of wealth of her own.
But FDR decided that he was unhappy pursuing the life of an attorney and instead turned his focus to politics. He was elected as a state senator of New York and was re-elected again in 1912. He then entered a very prestigious position as assistant secretary of the Navy, a job which he loved, and which paid extremely well. He had amassed a large portion of his impressive $67 million net worth before ever becoming president.
Net Worth: $6M
The 23rd president of the United States is a shining example of a self-made millionaire who lived the American dream to the fullest. The former president did come from a long line of politicians however, as his father was a congressman and his grandfather served as president, as well. But he still decided to become a lawyer, which he did successfully for 18 years, amassing a large portion of his impressive net worth.
But Benjamin Harrison wasn’t just any lawyer. He worked on some incredibly high-profile cases, with large and powerful clients – like the entire nation of Venezuela, whom he helped to settle a dispute about their border. In 1890, in the middle of Harrison’s presidency, he was suspected of bribery when he was caught paying a cabinet member for an extravagant summer cottage in Cape May Point. He’d reportedly coughed up what would be nearly $300,000 in today’s financial world.
Net Worth: $1M
William McKinley served as an infantryman for several years during the Civil War before becoming President. After his time in the service, he went to law school and became a practicing attorney, which allowed for him to make a comfortable living wage for himself and his wife, Ida. Still, he never exactly flourished financially, hence why he’s still only number 34 on our list. McKinley was sworn in to office in 1897 and had already acquired a large portion of his net worth by that point.
But in 1893, when the great depression struck the nation, he found himself facing some serious financial turbulence. He actually went bankrupt, himself, and was forced to start all over again – which didn’t seem to hold him back much at all, considering that he ran for president less than 5 years later and won. He was elected for a second term, as well, but was assassinated halfway through it.
President John Quincy Adams
Net Worth: $23M
Interesting that John Quincy Adams would be above his father on this list, but indeed he was able to outdo dad by a smooth couple of million bucks, as far as their net worths are concerned! This Adams was the son of 2nd president John Adams and his lovely wife Abigail. Although, if it weren’t for his inheritance from his father, he wouldn’t have been able to make entirely so much money!
Adams was actually the first U.S president that was the offspring of another. Before his time in the Oval Office, he served as a Senator and Minister to Russia. After losing the election for a 2nd term, he thought he was going to retire to his farm in Massachusetts, but he ended up being elected to the House of Representatives, instead. He held his seat in the house until his death in 1848. Adams’ youngest son, Charles, inherited a large portion of his father’s estate after his passing.
Net Worth: $6M
Even though a lot of the presidents on this list so far have come from fairly wealthy families, like prominent attorneys and politicians, etc., Millard Filmore’s story is a bit different. He grew up in the rural countryside on a farm that his father owned. When he was young, he worked as an apprentice to a cloth dresser, and went to a tiny schoolhouse that had only one room. He actually ended up married to a woman that taught at that very same schoolhouse, as well.
Filmore was the 13th president in the U.S, and served for 3 years in the early 1850’s. In 1849, he served as vice president under Zachary Taylor. Taylor died in 1950, in the middle of his presidency, and Filmore took over for him after his death. He ended up retiring from politics after he lost when he ran for a second term in the oval office.
President Theodore Roosevelt
Net Worth: $140M
T his former president, who is most commonly called “Teddy Roosevelt,” was born and raised in a wealthy family, like so many other world leaders. He started out pursuing a career in law, but quickly decided that it wasn’t for him and went into politics, instead. Roosevelt inherited an incredible amount of land from his family but lost the majority of it before his time in office, after harsh winters destroyed his ranching business.
But Roosevelt had thick skin, and he wasn’t about to let himself slip into poverty. So, he decided to author a couple of books. He published several books and made a decent amount of money during his career as a writer. He became president when he in fact was set to become vice president, because McKinley was assassinated (in 1901) and he stepped up to take over. His elaborate estate, Sagamore Hill, has been turned into a historic site.
President Kennedy (JFK)
Net Worth: $1B
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is most commonly known among Americans simply as “JFK.” Of course, he is also one of the most famous of the former presidents, perhaps largely due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding his assassination. Kennedy was born into a wealthy and powerful family and attended prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford. He served in the Navy during WWII before he began his career in politics.
Kennedy actually spent some time as a journalist after he served, before he ran for the House. Of course, thanks to his family connections and impressive history both in education and fighting for the country – he won the election. He went on to become a senator and finally, president, before he was shot and passed away in 1963. He had amassed quite a fortune for himself and his family before his death – an estimated $1 billion worth.
President William Henry Harrison
Net Worth: $6M
William Henry Harrison was Benjamin Harrison’s grandfather and acted as the 9th president of the United States in 1841. If he wasn’t related to the other president Harrison, most people probably would have never even heard much about him. That’s because this Harrison was only in office for an entire month that year. Unfortunately, he passed away from pneumonia before he could continue the rest of his first term.
But just because he didn’t necessarily accomplish a whole lot during his presidency doesn’t mean he still didn’t stack up a nice, solid fortune for himself over the years. He spent most of his adult life in politics, like most of his family members. He worked as both a congressman and senator in Ohio before getting elected to the oval office. Since Harrison’s presidency was cut so tragically short, his wife was awarded a pension check for the equivalent of the rest of the years’ worth of his salary.
President Van Buren
Net Worth: $29M
Van Buren was actually the first president of the country that had not been born as a subject of Britain. He grew up in a semi middle-class family in New York, making his lifetime feats that much more incredible. Although he was not rich at all when he was a child, his parents still owned slaves. He became a lawyer after his schooling, which is where he began to really stack his wealth. But the majority of the nearly $30 million he would acquire would come from his time in politics.
Van Buren, who became known by the nickname of the “Little Magician,” inherited a wealthy country, too…but that phase wouldn’t last for long. Because of some of the moves of his predecessor, Andrew Jackson, the financial crash of 1837 hit just 3 months into his presidency. Hundreds of businesses and banks were plunged into ruin, causing nationwide panic. Van Buren passed away in 1862 and unfortunately, didn’t leave much of a positive legacy behind.
Net Worth: $58M
John Tyler grew up in an extremely wealthy family with 7 siblings, all of whom were literally raised to become elitists by their elitist parents. He followed in his father’s footsteps and first became a lawyer before going into politics. When his father passed away, he inherited a large portion of his estate – and the slaves along with it. Around the same time, he married a woman who hailed from another elite family in his area.
Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, was also the 1st president to obtain his position due to the death of his predecessor – William Henry Harrison. After his retirement, he moved back to his plantation with his 2nd wife. Then, in 1861 he voted in favor of Virginia to secede from the U.S, which made the current government see him as a traitor to the entire nation. He passed away the year later and was actually in debt by that time.
Net Worth: $28M
Served: 1885-1889 and 1893-1897
You may recognize the face of President Cleveland from some famous dollar bills – or, thousand-dollar bills, that is. His was the mug chosen to be printed on the $1,000 bank notes, last made in the 1940’s. He was the son of a preacher and modest bookstore owner, growing up, and he earned his attorney’s license and practiced for 12 years before he went into office. First, he served as the mayor of Buffalo, NY, then he went on to become governor before he was elected to the presidency.
But Grover Cleveland’s $28 million net worth didn’t all come from his time in law and politics. Rather, he also dabbled in high-end real estate, earning several millions of dollars through flipping various properties, including his own mansion in New Jersey. Cleveland rose the bar as president, becoming the very first president to serve two terms, nonconsecutively, and also the first democratic leader since the civil war.
Net Worth: $9M
Dwight D. Eisenhower is another shining example of someone who made the most out of the American Dream. He grew up in a rural farm town, with a blue-collar family. His father worked as a mechanic and his mother was a stay-at-home Mennonite. He attended West Point, and then joined the military, where he served for an extensive period of time before his time in office.
He became extremely decorated within the service, and even obtained the rank of five-star general. He also worked as president of Columbia University from 1948-1953 when he was elected to the oval office. He may have in fact been elected for a 3rd term, if the 22nd amendment of the constitution hadn’t been ratified that year to prevent him (or any other U.S future president) from being able to run again.
Net Worth: $83M
Herbert Hoover is the very definition of a self-made millionaire. His parents both died when he was a child, and he grew up living with an uncle. He earned his degree in geology from Stanford and went on to work internationally for different mining companies before WWI shook everything up. He saved thousands upon thousands of lives, both helping Americans evacuate from around Europe, and feeding over 10 million refugees.
All of his philanthropic work during the war earned him both the nickname of “The Great Humanitarian,” and the attention of president Wilson, who nominated him to head up Food Administration. That’s what initially got his foot in the door of the political world, where he ended up doing a lot of good work and making a very impressive amount of money for it. Hoover passed away in NYC in 1964, when he was 90 years old.
President George Bush Jr.
Net Worth: $39M
George Bush Jr, son of former president Bush Sr, served the United States as the 43rd president. Before his time in office, he attended Yale, where he also became a member of Skull and Bones, and was basically set up financially and politically, thanks to his father’s influence and path making. Like his father, he worked in oil for several years before settling down with his wife and embarking on his journey into politics.
Bush was elected as the governor of Texas, where he served from 1995-2000. He was incredibly popular among voters, hence his re-election and ultimate election into the Oval Office. There are a lot of conspiracy theories that surround the Bush administration and 9-11, and while no one knows for certain if there is any truth behind them, one thing is for sure: The Bush family has made an absolute fortune in the oil industry…
Net Worth: $76M
Aside from the very public reasoning behind why Bill Clinton impeached, he was actually a terrific president for the United States during his time in office. While he enjoyed a comfortable salary in the Oval Office, Clinton made a lot of his money through book and press deals. For instance, he apparently made nearly $15 million from sales off of his book: My Life.
But Clinton hadn’t always been so wealthy. In fact, he had a pretty rough time during his childhood, after his biological father passed away and his mother married his stepfather (whose name he ultimately took.) He attended Georgetown, graduating with a degree in International Affairs before entering into politics. His various media and business ventures have enabled him to acquire a net worth of over $75 million in total.
President John Adams
Net Worth: $21M
John Adams was the 2nd president to ever serve the country in that position. Unlike George Washington, he wasn’t rolling in cash before obtaining his seat in the Oval Office, but he certainly wasn’t struggling, either. He’d worked as a writer and lawyer, before his election, so he already had amassed a small fortune when he went into office. Besides the money that he’d made on his own, he also married into even more wealth, thanks to his wife’s family.
In fact, John Adams ended up marrying Abigail Quincy – the 2nd first lady of the United States, and member of a prestigious political family in Massachusetts. In fact, Abigail was one of the first women’s rights activists in the U.S, mailing her husband letters during the revolution asking him to “keep the ladies in mind,” when creating laws for the new nation! Well, Abigail, we’re simply thrilled you and your husband enjoyed the fruits of your labors, to a healthy extent of $21 million!
President Jimmy Carter
Net Worth: $8M
James Earl Carter, often referred to as Jimmy Carter, was the 39th American President. He was the son of a peanut farmer and nurse and grew up living a fairly typical childhood in his hometown in rural Georgia. When Carter’s father passed away, he had a pretty solid amount of wealth from his farm business, but everything was divided among all of his children, so Jimmy didn’t inherit all too much.
In fact, Jimmy Carter faced quite a bit of financial difficulties throughout his life – even throughout and after his presidency. During his time in office, he’d left his peanut farm in a blind trust, which caused him to wind up in over $1 million of debt. He ultimately sold the business and did just fine for himself. He was never too big on spending lavishly and lived a very modest existence when he was done in politics.
Net Worth: $237M
Can you imagine being one of the founding fathers, and being able to set the precedents for all sorts of stuff in the new nation? Well, Thomas Jefferson lived it. He grew up (surprise, surprise) in a wealthy family, and lived a high-society type existence. In fact, he made it all the way to number 4 on the list, considering he amassed a fortune of over $230 million in his lifetime.
Like most of the other high-society men at that time, Jefferson relied on slaves to get everything done on his ridiculously huge property. He spent most of his days at his estate, which is named Monticello and covered over 5,000 acres of land. Unfortunately, his family had to sell a lot of it after his death due to the fact he’d acquired quite a bit of debt by that point, which in today’s terms would be equal to around $2 million.
Net Worth: $7M
Zachary Taylor was born into a prominent family and lived a life of being handed most things on a silver platter. However, he dedicated 4 decades of his life to serving (as an officer) in the military before he entered into politics. Taylor inherited an incredible amount of land from his family, including a 2,000-acre plantation in Louisiana, where he lived with his wife, and their 6 children and 80+ slaves. He also had an additional plantation in Mississippi.
Taylor was dubbed a “career military man,” and admittedly had never once voted in a presidential election. He himself was elected in 1848, but only served two years before his abrupt death in 1850. Some conspiracies exist that speculate what was deemed “acute gastroenteritis” may have actually been a poisoning of some kind. His wife and children inherited his estates after his passing.
Net Worth: $30M
James Monroe was the 5th president of the United States. He grew up as the son of a farmer, and his father planned for him to take over the land when he passed. But James obviously had other plans. Of course, he still inherited the 2,500 acres, but he also exceeded everyone’s expectations, educationally speaking, and decided to go into politics.
Monroe served as president for 2 consecutive terms and gained a pretty penny over the course of those 8 years. Of course, his wife also brought some money into the family from her own. Unfortunately, he found himself in debt which led to him selling his plantation, but he still racked up a $30 million net worth during his lifetime.
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Net Worth: $109M
Lyndon Johnson overcame childhood poverty to become a man worth over $100 million. He grew up on a farm with his parents. His father worked in Texas politics for several years before switching back to farming, which plunged the family into financial chaos. But Luckily, LBJ persevered and worked incredibly hard to make it through college, and then into his own career as a successful politician.
Johnson married his wife, Claudia, soon after he first met her in 1934. She herself was from a wealthy family in Texas, and the two hit it off almost immediately. Together, they co-owned both a television and radio station in their home state. Johnson got sworn-in as president aboard Air Force I, not long after word came out that JFK had been shot. One reporter referred to him as the “greatest majority leader of all time.”
Net Worth: $14M
Everyone in America may not know the names of each and every president that’s served their country, but you can almost bet for certain that they’ve heard of Ronald Reagan. After all, the 40th president of the U.S was a famous actor before he ever even stepped foot in the White House. Reagan acted for nearly two decades, stacking up an incredible amount of wealth even before his presidency.
Perhaps one of the most famous things that he spent his money on was his beautiful home in Bel-air that he shared with his wife, Nancy. The home recently sold (in 2016) for $15 million. Neighbors in the area have included everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Kenny Rogers. Reagan passed away in 2004, leaving his estate to his wife who passed away in 2016, not too long before their home was sold to the new owners.
Net Worth: $3M
William Taft acquired the majority of his wealth during his presidency. Before he was elected, he worked as a lawyer, like many other former U.S Presidents. His father had served as attorney general to Ulysses Grant, when he was president. Taft married the daughter of another attorney, as well, when he tied the knot with Helen Herron in 1886.
Taft was said to have made a better administrative leader than politician, and he was the only person in history to have held the highest position both the executive and judicial government houses. He sat as Chief Justice of the U.S Supreme Court after his presidency, from 1921 until 1930, not too long before he passed away.
Net Worth: $113M
James Madison was the 4th president of the United States, and one of the founding fathers of the country. In fact, he is often referred to as the father of the constitution. He grew up as the son of a wealthy plantation owner. And, like many other former presidents, Madison was a lawyer before his time in office. Before his election to presidency, Madison served in the Congress of the Confederation.
Madison’s father passed away at the beginning of the 1800’s and left his son the plantation. Of course, this wasn’t just any plantation – it was Montpelier, and of course, it came along with dozens of slaves that his father had owned. Inheriting all of that land actually earned him the title of the largest landowner in his county in Virginia. Over the years, his fortune crept away from him until he found himself in debt.
Net Worth: $1M
President Warren Gamaliel Harding was the 29th ever to serve the country, and sat in the oval office for two years in the early 1920’s. Before he became elected to office, he worked in publishing – fairly successfully, in fact. He bought The Marion Star in his home state of Ohio and turned it into a beloved publication in the area. Harding died in 1923 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 57, 2 years before his first term of presidency was due to come to an end.
Harding had built up his first million before he ever stepped foot into the White House and didn’t really add too much to his fortune from his newfound position as President of the States. People were saddened by his death and loved him as a leader, even though he was surrounded by scandals until the time of his passing. The Teapot Dome scandal was probably the most infamous of them all and came into public knowledge only after his death.
Net Worth: $11M
James Polk is yet another former U.S president to have come from a farming family. But Polk’s father wasn’t just any farmer – he was a wealthy plantation owner. At the time of his father’s passing, he still owned over 50 slaves. Polk went on to pursue a life in politics, beginning in his home state of Tennessee, where he worked as speaker of the house from 1835-1839, and governor from 1839-1841.
But Polk’s net worth didn’t all come from his time in government. In fact, it didn’t all come from him at all. That’s because he happened to marry a wealthy woman, Sarah Childress, who brought a large chunk of her own family fortune to the pot. She was also the extrovert of the couple, who’s credited with hosting social events that were said to have improved her husband’s career.
Net Worth: $17M
The 37th president of the United States was another unforgettable name – Richard Nixon. Nixon grew up in a fairly typical family. His father owned a gas station and his mother was a stay-at-home mother and very religious. He spent his childhood in public school, before obtaining his degree and heading off to law school. He tried to work for himself at one point, but never ultimately succeeded in that aspect and instead, he went into the military and public service.
The infamous Watergate scandal led to Nixon’s resignation from office in 1974, making him the only president in history to step down in that fashion. But before he resigned, he ended the wartime draft in America, and stacked up a pretty comfortable amount of dough. Nixon dabbled in real estate as well, which enabled him to make some great income. He also authored a total of 10 books after his retirement from politics – all of which sold quite well.
6. President Jackson
Net Worth: $133M
Andrew Jackson led no easy life when he was on the rise as a young man living in the Carolina’s during the Revolutionary War. By the age of 15, he’d already been fighting in many battles (not formally, but with “the irregulars,) and he’d lost almost all of his immediate family members to disease and war. But he pursued a career in law and ultimately opened his own successful practice, before he entered into politics.
Jackson first started his career as a politician in Tennessee as a delegate, then a congressman (the first of the state,) and finally, senator. All of his success in politics made him a very wealthy man, who ended up owning over $130 million in estates, etc. But, like a lot of wealthy men during that time, that meant that he invested in a large plantation and hundreds of slaves. But, obvious transgressions aside, “Old Hickory” was truly an interesting leader of the country.
Net Worth: $587M
If you’ve only heard a handful of former president’s names, George Washington has got to be the 1st out of all of them. After all, he was literally the very 1st president of the United States. Washington was also the highest paid of all former presidents, as the presidential salary in those days was set at 2%.
Of course, having all of that money meant that he owned a land – which also meant he felt the need to own hundreds of slaves. In fact, Washington owned a total of more than 300 slaves, who were spread out among the 5 plantations that he and his wife, Martha, owned together. Martha had come from a wealthy family herself and had brought some of that money into their marriage.
Net Worth: $8M
Gerald Ford served as president of the United States from 74-77. Before his presidency, he spent over 20 years in politics, working the majority of that time as Michigan’s representative. Then, he went on to spend nearly 10 years as the Minority House Leader before being elected to the presidency.
Apparently, he’d had it sort of rough as a kid, and he grew up dealing with a father who was physically abusive towards his mother. But then, he lived with his mother and stepfather later on in his childhood, during which time he led a fairly normal life – doing things like participating in the boy scouts. In fact, he holds the honor of the organizations only Eagle Scout to ever become president.
Net Worth: $3M
Rutherford B. Hayes became the 19th president of the United States when he was elected in 1877. Before his time in office, he worked as an attorney in Ohio after attending Harvard University. He by no means came from an incredibly wealthy family, and instead built his fortune from the ground up. Hayes’ election is quite infamous, because he won by just one electoral vote and had the popular votes stacked against him.
His wife and high school honey, Lucy Webb, earned the nickname “Lemonade Lucy” at the White House, because she refused to allow any sort of alcohol on the premises. Maybe that’s why Rutherford bought his 10,000 acres and additional home in Spiegel Grove. This was a beautiful house that sat on over 20 acres in his home state of Ohio.
Net Worth: $3B
Donald Trump was born into a wealthy family and was set up with powerful connections from a very young age. This led to him becoming successful in the business world, and then he moved on to his next feat: reality television. Unlike most former presidents, when he was called to serve his country in war – he avoided the draft and protecting his nation, in favor of preparing for his time in Hollywood.
Trump’s net worth is a hotly debated topic these days, as he is sitting president of the United States, but it’s estimated to be somewhere around $3 billion. Of course, it is reported to have dropped severely over the past several years, with Forbes claiming him to have lost about $400 million in 2018 alone. Forbes also reported that Trump Tower’s value declined by over $40 million that same year. But he’s still doing better than everyone else on this list, by a pretty impressive amount!