The value of an American dollar has changed very much since George Washington was in office. What presidents were worth back in the day is not the same as what they’re worth now. Also, while the President of the United States has a lot of esteem and power, they actually don’t get paid as much as you might think.
Today, the president gets paid $400,000 per year. Most CEOs, executives, and even doctors and lawyers make much more than that. Presidents are responsible for covering most of their own expenses, although they do get to live in the White House rent-free. Keep reading to see how much the presidents of the past were worth in terms of today’s dollars.
George Washington: $587 Million
First let’s discuss George Washington, the first president of the United States. Before becoming president in 1789, he became the sole owner of his Mount Vernon estate in 1761. He inherited the property from his great-grandfather who built it in 1633.
Mount Vernon estate was a fully working plantation with 8,000 acres of farmland run by 300 slaves. When Washington became president, he was paid a salary of two percent of the U.S. budget in 1789.
Abraham Lincoln: $1 Million
Abraham Lincoln is one of the most well known American presidents. He was elected as president in 1861 and he held the position until he was assassinated in 1865. Abraham Lincoln’s net worth was low compared to other presidents who lived in the 1800s. Lincoln was not born into a wealthy family, so there wasn’t much land or money for him to inherit.
He earned his money by working as an attorney. He worked as a lawyer for 17 years before he became president.
John F. Kennedy: $1.1 Billion
With a net worth of $1.1 billion, John F. Kennedy was one of the wealthiest people ever elected to be the president of the United States. Kennedy came from a very wealthy family, as did his wife, Jackie.
All of Kennedy’s wealth, other than his presidential salary, came from his family’s trust fund. There was some money that his father made that Kennedy was never able to fully inherit, but he didn’t really need it.
Andrew Jackson: $132.6 Million
Andrew Jackson was the president of the United States from 1829-1837. He gained popularity for advocating for the middle class, although he was not a member of the middle class at all. Jackson came from a wealthy family, and he also made money by serving in the military and the United States government.
He became one of the wealthiest presidents of the 1800s, although he kept his financial situation pretty private. He wanted to remain relatable to the people.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: $66.8 Million
Franklin D. Roosevelt grew up around money. His parents were wealthy, and later, he married into money. Eleanor Roosevelt was also a person of higher status. After inheritiing a bunch of money from his family, Roosevelt bought properties in Georgia, Maine, and New York.
Roosevelt became president in 1933, but before that, in 1919, he had to ask his mother for financial help because he almost went bankrupt. He was able to get himself back on his feet by working as assistant secretary of the Navy.
Herbert Hoover: $83 Million
Herbert Hoover wasn’t an heir to a massive fortune. He was an orphan who was raised by his uncle who was a doctor. Before becoming president, Hoover worked as an executive at a mining company.
He earned a lot of money working at that company, and he remained an employee there for 17 years. He made so much money that by the time he became president, he was able to donate his presidential salary to charity.
Lyndon B. Johnson: $109.3 Million
Lyndon B. Johnson, America’s 36th president, came from a middle-class family, however, his father managed to lose all of his family’s money in a series of bad investments. Johnson said, “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.”
Johnson was able to rebuild his family’s fortune over time by investing in land in Texas and building a home on that land.
Gerald Ford: $8.1 Million
Gerald Ford was the 38th president of the United States. He came from a lower-middle-class family and he didn’t inherit any money from his parents or grandparents. Ford made his money by working in public service and investing in properties in Michigan, Rancho Mirage, and Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Gerald Ford made most of his money after his presidential term was over. He wrote and sold books and served on the boards of several lucrative American companies.
John Adams: $21.3 Million
John Adams also went into his presidency with some money in his pocket. He inherited some money from his father, and his wife, Abigail Adams, was an heiress from one of the wealthiest families in Massachusetts.
John Adams also earned money by working as a lawyer. He was good at his job and he was well respected in his community. Eventually, he earned enough to buy a 40-acre property known as “Peacefield” which is located in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Richard Nixon: $17.2 Million
Richard Nixon served as the president of the United States from 1969 to 1974. We all know what happened in 1974 when Nixon abandoned the presidency due to the Watergate scandal. Nixon wasn’t born into money. He made most of his fortune from working as a senator and from making some successful real estate investments.
At one point, he sold his New York townhouse to a Syrian ambassador to the US for a large sum of money.
Jimmy Carter: $8.1 Million
Jimmy Carter, America’s 39th president, came from humble beginnings. He always had an entrepreneurial spirit and he helped his father turn his peanut farm into a successful business enterprise. Agriculture is a rough business to be in, though.
Carter went on to make his money by writing books. In total, he and his wife, Rosalyn Carter have published 25 books. They also own several acres of land in Plains, Georgia, which is Jimmy Carter’s hometown.
Theodore Roosevelt: $138 Million
Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th president, was born into a wealthy family. However, he lost a lot of that wealth when he invested in a ranch in the Dakotas. He had to become an author to make enough money to live.
Roosevelt worked in public service for many years before becoming president. Most of his net worth comes from a property he owned called “Sagamore Hill.” This property is a 235-acre estate on a valuable plot of land on Long Island.
Ronald Reagan: $14.2 Million
Ronald Reagan was one of America’s most popular presidents. He served in the oval office from 1981 to 1989. Before becoming president, Reagan worked in the movie business. He made a lot of money as a movie and television actor in Hollywood.
Once he had made some money, Reagan started investing in properties all over California. One of his most famous properties is a 688-acre estate in Santa Barbara, California. After serving as president, Reagan wrote an autobiography which also earned him quite a bit of money.
George H.W. Bush: $26.3 Million
The Bush family is now known for being one of the most powerful families in America, but that wasn’t the case when George H.W. Bush was growing up. This 41st president of the United States made most of his money later in life working for an off-shore drilling company.
Bush invested in property with the money he earned from the drilling company. One of his estates in Kennebunkport, Maine is estimated to be worth more than $5 million.
Bill Clinton: $75.9 Million
Bill Clinton didn’t come from a family who had a lot of money. He was born and raised in Hope, Arkansas and he spent most of his life with less money than you might expect.
Even during his presidency, Clinton was living pretty modestly (for a president, that is). After his presidency, he was able to earn a lot more money through book deals and paid speeches. Clinton was paid $15 million for his book My Life.
George W. Bush: $39.5 Million
Even though George H.W. Bush didn’t come from a wealthy family, he was able to make enough money that his son did grow up rich. George W. Bush followed in his father’s footsteps both by becoming the president of the United States and by making a decent amount of money in the oil business.
George W. Bush made so much money that he was able to buy the Texas Rangers professional baseball team. After his presidency ended, Bush was able to make money through book deals and paid speeches.
Barack Obama: $40 Million
Barack Obama was the child of a single mother. He didn’t grow up with money, but he was able to work hard and earn himself a spot in American history. After leaving office, Obama has been able to earn a healthy living by signing book deals, giving speeches, and making appearances at fancy events.
Barack and Michelle worked together on a memoir that brought in a lot of cash for the Obama family. According to American University, the Obamas could earn up to $242 million in the upcoming years.
Donald Trump: $3.1 Billion
Donald Trump is the wealthiest man to ever hold the position of president of the United States. Trump likes to say that he’s a self-made man, but he actually inherited millions of dollars from his father, and he took over his father’s real estate business at a relatively young age.
Now Trump allegedly owns billions of dollars in real estate. He’s invested in country clubs, businesses, beauty pageants, and so much more, both in the United States and abroad.
Thomas Jefferson: $236.8 Million
Like George Washington Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, also owned a plantation. He had a 3,000-acre property in Virginia called “Monticello” that he inherited from his father. Eventually, Jefferson expanded the property to 5,000 acres.
Most of Jefferson’s wealth came from his plantation which was run by slaves. He had various jobs throughout his life which also earned him some cash. By the time he died, though, Jefferson was buried in mountains of debt.
Grover Cleveland: $28.3 Million
Grover Cleveland holds a unique position in American history as the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. He served as the 22nd and the 24th president of the United States. Cleveland’s father’s family wasn’t wealthy, but his mother was the daughter of a wealthy lawyer.
Cleveland also worked as a lawyer. He was an attorney for 12 years before becoming president. He also made some money by selling his estate which was located outside Washington D.C.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: $9 Million
Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t born into money and he actually acquired all of his wealth on his own, mostly through serving in the military. Eisenhower served in both WW1 and WW2. He had high ranking positions, but they weren’t exactly high paying.
His military experience did help him win the presidency in 1953. After he was finished serving as the president of the United States, he made money by owning and managing a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Harry S. Truman: $25,000
President Harry S. Truman wasn’t very good with money. He was able to carry America through post-war economic problems, but he couldn’t carry himself out of financial trouble. Truman didn’t grow up with money, and when he was able to acquire some wealth as an adult, he blew it all on bad investments.
Truman earned a presidential salary, but most of that money went towards paying off his debts. After he left the White House, Truman and his wife lived his mother-in-law and they lived on Truman’s annual $25,000 pension.
Calvin Coolidge: Less Than $1 Million
Calvin Coolidge became the 30th president of the United States in 1923. He came from a wealthy and successful family. His father, John Calvin Coolidge Sr., was a successful farmer and storekeeper who was able to pay for his son’s education. Coolidge went to law school and was able to make money as a lawyer and a writer.
Coolidge left the White House right at the beginning of the Great Depression, but he was still able to earn money later in life. Most of his fortune came from his private estate in Massachusetts.
Warren G. Harding: $1 Million
Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States, got most of his money by marrying his very wealthy wife, Florence Mabel Harding. She was the daughter of a wealthy and well-known banker. Florence even took part in politics while her husband was president.
Harding had some money of his own before he married Florence. He worked as a newspaper publisher in Ohio before becoming the Governor, and then the Senator, of the state.
Woodrow Wilson: Less Than $1 Million
Woodrow Wilson didn’t make much money during his two terms as president, even though he successfully led Amerca into World War One. Wilson was president for eight years and then he suffered a stroke in office.
After his stroke, he was unable to work, which meant he was unable to earn much more than what he had earned while working at Princeton University from 1902-1910, and what he had earned as Governor of New Jersey.
William H. Taft: $3 Million
William H. Taft served as the president of the United States from 1909 to 1913. Before that, he worked as a lawyer and a judge in Ohio. Taft came from a wealthy family. His father, Alphonso, was a U.S. Attorney General.
Taft also made money after he left the White House. He went back to working in the private sector and he made money by working as a professor at Yale University. He also served as Cheif Justice from 1921 to 1930.
Wiliam McKinley: $1 Million
President William McKinley didn’t come from a wealthy family. He was the seventh of nine children and his father was a farmer and an ironworker. McKinley got his first job as a postal clerk while attending college and continued working in public service ever since.
Most of McKinley’s money comes from his career in politics. Before becoming the 25th president of the United States, he was a House of Representative member and the Governor of Ohio.
Benjamin Harrison: $6 Million
Benjamin Harrison was the great-grandson of founding father Benjamin Harrison V, and the grandson of former U.S. president William Henry Harrison. His family did set him up for success when it came to a career in politics, but his fortune didn’t come from an inheritance.
Before and after becoming President, Harrison was a successful attorney in Ohio. He served as an attorney of the Republic of Venezuela when they were in a legal dispute with the United Kingdom.
Chester A. Arthur: Less Than $1 Million
Former United States President Chester A. Arthur didn’t grow up with much money. He was the son of an Irish preacher who worked as a lawyer during the American Civil War. Arthur made most of his money by working in politics. President Grant appointed him to be the Collector of the Port of New York.
His position as Collector allowed him to amass a substantial fortune. He had enough money to buy a townhouse in New York City and furnish it with designer furniture.
James A. Garfield: Less Than $1 Million
President Garfield came a long way from his humble beginnings in a one-room log cabin in Ohio. He made some money through working in politics and investing in a small property. Even though he spent 18 years in the House of Representative, he only owned a small home and property in Mentor, Ohio.
Garfield was also assassinated after just one year in office, so he didn’t have time to make money by investing his presidential salary.
Rutherford B. Hayes: $3 Million
Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States was the son of a shopkeeper. He didn’t grow up with very much money, but he was able to go to law school, work as a successful lawyer for 15 years, and make a small fortune.
Because of the money he made prior to becoming president, he was able to buy a 10,000 square foot home in Fremont, Ohio after he left the White House.
Ulysses S. Grant: Less Than $1 Million
Unlike President Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant grew up with a lot of money. This former general and 18th President of the United States was the son of a tanner. His grandfather was a wealthy merchant. Even though his family had money, Grant lost his inheritance due to a dishonest investing partner.
After serving as president, Grant was able to make some money off of his autobiography, however, he and his family lived a relatively modest life.
Andrew Johnson: Less Than $1 Million
Historians don’t look too favorably upon former president of the United States Andrew Johnson. Johnson was born into poverty. His father was a tailor and shoemaker and Andrew Johnson never attended school.
Johnson worked as a politician for years and served as vice president under President Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln was assassinated, Johnson took over the highest office in the country. His presidency was rife with scandal. Eventually, he was impeached and he died with little honor and little money.
James Buchanan: Less Than $1 Million
Former U.S. President James Buchanan didn’t have very much money. He’s the only American president who never married, which may be a good thing because he wouldn’t have had enough money to support a family. Buchanan grew up in a log cabin as one of eleven children. He almost spent his whole life in poverty, but then his father made a lifechanging decision and moved to a farming town.
His father was able to make enough money as a farmer to send James to school. Eventually, Buchanan became a lawyer, and by 1821, he was earning more than $200,000 a year.
Franklin Pierce: $2 Million
Former United States President Franklin Pierce inherited his fortune from his father who was a successful farmer during the American Revolutionary War. His father owned 50 acres of land which made him wealthier than all of his neighbors. Pierce went to law school and was able to make a living on his own by working as an attorney.
In 1934, Pierce married Jane Appleton, the daughter of a wealthy American aristocrat. The couple invested in property in New Hampshire, and their family home is still standing today.
Millard Fillmore: $4 Million
Former United States President Millard Fillmore wasn’t born into wealth. He also didn’t marry into wealth. His first wife, Abigail came from a middle-class family. Filmore made all of his money by founding a college. After serving as president, Fillmore founded The State University of New York at Buffalo and served as its first chancellor.
After Abigail died in 1953, Fillmore also remarried a woman named Caroline McIntosh. McIntosh was a widow who had inherited her husband’s wealth.
Zachary Taylor: $7 Million
Former President Zachary Taylor grew up around money. His family owned a plantation in Virginia and they were involved in local politics. The family was interested in government policy because their ancestors came to America on the Mayflower.
Taylor’s family had a lot of land as well as money, which Taylor inherited after his father died. As one point, Taylor owned land in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Taylor made excellent investment decisions and he was able to make a fortune in land speculation, bank investments, and utility stocks.
James K. Polk: $11 Million
Former President Polk was a successful lawyer, but he also inherited a lot of money from his family. Polk’s family owned a plantation and they were able to build a fortune (mostly by using slave labor). Polk himself actually owned 25 slaves at one point.
Polk’s wife, Sarah Childress, also inherited a fortune from her family. Her family also owned a plantation and several slaves. Polk and his wife lived in a mansion in Tennessee after his presidency ended.
John Tyler: $57 Million
John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, was born to a wealthy family in Virginia. This was a family with strong American roots, and John Tyler Sr. was actually Thomas Jefferson’s college roommate.
Tyler earned money by practicing law, but he also inherited a 1,000-acre tobacco farm from his family. Tyler and his wife Letitia lived in an elaborate 1,600-acre estate they called “Sherwood Manor” after Tyler left office. They lived there until John Tyler died in 1862.
William Henry Harrison: $6 Million
Former President William Henry Harrison was the son of a founding father and the grandfather of another U.S. president. Even though his bloodline is impressive, most of his fortune came from his marriage to Anna Symmes. Anna was the daughter of a judge and colonel who served in the American Revolutionary War.
Harrison never asked Anna’s father for permission to marry his daughter. The couple eloped, and when Anna’s father found out, he was worried that Harrison wouldn’t have enough money to support his daughter. Anna’s father sold the couple 160 acres of land, which is how Harrison made most of his $6 million fortune.