Not all American presidents have lived in luxury, unlike what is commonly thought. The truth is, there are several former presidents who died in penury after leaving office (or even during their time in office).
However, there are many US presidents who became wealthy through a variety of means. A few of them, such as John F. Kennedy, were born to affluent families. Whether becoming well-heeled either by inheritance, by their previous profession or own business ventures, or simply by taking over the White House (or any of these), a US President may still enjoy a lot of perks during their tenure. However, some former presidents even became wealthier than they had been during their time in office.
JFK’s father Joseph “Joe” Kennedy built his fortune through a variety of business ventures — banking, real estate, the stock market, film industry, and liquor importing (although not quite legally). While JFK did come from an extremely wealthy family, he otherwise didn’t have the assets equivalent to a billion dollars he was worth. It was because he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963; his father Joe outlived him, dying six years later.
So technically, Kennedy wasn’t a billionaire because he didn’t live long enough to inherit his father’s fortune. However, he did have millions to his name, having an access to his family’s vast trust fund, as well as several real estate properties.
The first US president derived most of his fortune from one source: land. His 8,000-acre Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia consisted of multiple farms that were run by slaves. In addition to that, he also married into a wealthy family; his wife Martha inherited a considerable property from her parents. During Washington’s presidential tenure, 2% of the national budget went to his salary, so it means he earned a lot more compared to his successors.
Like other early US presidents, Jefferson built his fortune from land. He had 3,000 acres of land and several slaves that he inherited from his father. Jefferson also had a large home in Virginia named Monticello which was situated on a 5,000-acre plantation. His home still stands and features really amazing architecture.
Like JFK, Theodore Roosevelt was born to an affluent and prominent clan, and also had the access to a large trust fund. However, he experienced some financial struggles, such as his failed ranching ventures in North and South Dakota. He started working as a writer to pay off his debts, and it was in writing books where he became wealthy. His 235-acre Sagamore Hill estate on Long Island was his most valuable property.
Andrew Jackson became wealthy from various sources. One, he derived his fortune from a military career where he accelerated to the higher ranks of the national defense department. Two, he owned several dozen slaves and land holdings. Three, he had quite a lucrative marriage to a very wealthy lady named Rachel Donelson. However, he faced considerable debt towards the end of his life.
James Madison had about 5,000 acres to his name. This would have been enough to make him wealthy, but he actually derived much of his personal wealth from his positions as Secretary of State and the President. However, later in life, he became bankrupt when his plantation began to suffer financial failure.
Lyndon B. Johnson was born to a wealthy family. However, his father suffered bankruptcy when he was still young. After graduating from college though, Johnson rebounded spectacularly and was able to invest in a variety of businesses from land to livestock to media stations. Technically, he was even wealthier than president John F. Kennedy at the time he acted as his vice-president. He assumed the presidency following JFK’s assassination.
Herbert Hoover grew up as an orphan and was later adopted by his wealthy uncle, who was a doctor. However, he didn’t inherit a single penny from his uncle, and neither did he receive a cent from his tenure as President. He became wealthy through his very profitable mining business. He became so financially stable that it allowed him to donate all of his salary during his time in office. However, even his business acumen failed to combat the Great Depression.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the successor to another wealthy president Herbert Hoover (who is also on this list). Like many other presidents, Roosevelt came from a wealthy clan, which also included his fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt, who was much wealthier than himself. Despite coming from an affluent family, he made much of his fortune from his 12 years as President. He was married to his fifth cousin once removed Eleanor Roosevelt, whose own wealth gave him much more financial stability.
Former president Bill Clinton didn’t come from an incredibly wealthy family, nor did he make a lot of money during his presidency. After he left the White House in 2001, this is where his fortune actually began to grow rapidly. He was given $15 million alone for an autobiography deal. That book, entitled My Life (2004), sold over 2 million copies. He also makes a lot of money as a speaker, with his biggest speaking engagement netting him almost $1 million.
Dubbed as “His Accidency,” John Tyler assumed the President’s office after the death of William Henry Harrison in April 1841. Apart from his presidency, Tyler also derived his wealth from inheriting a fortune from his family, who owned a massive tobacco plantation and several dozens of slaves. He was married to Laetitia Chrisitan and then to Julia Gardiner, both of whom came from their respectively wealthy families.
James Monroe was the last of the “Founding Fathers” to ever serve as president. But he built much of his fortune through his law practice as well as from farming and land holdings, even before he became president.
Van Buren derived much of his wealth from his profession as a lawyer. He also owned a considerable property in New York.
What can you expect from a president serving two terms in office? Apart from having served twice as President, Cleveland is also known as the “Veto President” for he used vetoes quite a lot while in office — in fact, more often than any other president. He also gained wealth from his successful law practice and real estate business.
Like his son, President George W. Bush, Bush Sr. built his fortune from the oil industry in Texas. He became a millionaire by the time he was 40. He also owns a large estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, which is also known as “Walker’s Point.”
The sixth US President and son of John Adams was already wealthy, unsurprisingly. Apart from a significant inheritance, he also derived his wealth from a lucrative career as a lawyer.
Before his political career, Bush worked in the oil industry where he became wealthy. He also co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team. After leaving the White House in 2009, Bush makes a considerable amount of money as a public speaker.
John Adams is the second president of the United States. He ran for a second term against his own friend Thomas Jefferson but lost. Adams became wealthy from his law career and his marriage into an affluent family.
The Watergate scandal may have led to the disastrous end of Richard Nixon’s presidency. However, that also brought him a considerable fortune by way of lucrative book deals and several public appearances. For instance, British talk show host David Frost paid him $600,000 for a series of sit-down interviews The Nixon Interviews which was aired in 1977.
The first African-American president currently enjoys a high salary (about $400,000 annually) as much as he can before he would step down from the office in 2016. Obama has also already made a fortune from sales of his two books.
Last on this list but certainly not the least, Donald Trump is the 45th and current US president. He also happens to be the wealthiest US president, with his net worth being estimated somewhere between $3 billion to $10 billion. Other presidents prefer to keep the status of their wealth on the hush-hush. But Trump’s well-known affluence and display of his luxurious lifestyle, on the other hand, are very much a part of what he truly is.
Trump became wealthy from a variety of businesses. He primarily built his fortune from his real-estate empire, which includes the Trump Organization portfolio whose properties can be found in New York as well as other cities in the US and in many parts of the world. From real estate, he extended his business to golf courses, hotels, casinos, and other products and services that bear his name.
For more on Donald Trump, check out this related link: The Most Expensive Things Donald Trump Owns