Though the presidency of the United States is a prestigious job, it does not pay as well as one might think. The annual presidential salary is $400,000. While this is still within the top 1% of American earners, it is very little when compared to the typical compensation given to America’s CEOs and executives.
However, many men who have occupied the highest office in the land did not need any salary at all. The presidency has long been a position held by men who had already inherited fortunes or earned them during their lifetimes.
In America’s early days, only property-owning white men were allowed to vote. Consequently, only the wealthy first participated in American politics, meaning the first presidents were all extremely well off.
With time, voting restrictions loosened, campaign finance regulations tightened, and people with more modest backgrounds began to rise to the presidency. Several U.S. presidents were either poor or in debt when they were elected president.
However, even as all these things have changed, the fact remains that the majority of presidents are independently wealthy, and only a very small number could have been fairly called poor at any point in their lifetimes. Fame and wealth continue to have an outsized impact on public perception. Wealth and the influence that can accompany it have not lost relevancy. President Donald Trump was able to leverage his personal wealth and fame to fund the majority of his successful political campaign.
24/7 Wall St. examined the finances of every American president, from George Washington, to Donald Trump. For the purposes of comparison, we provided net worth figures for each president in current dollars. Because a number of presidents, particularly in the early 19th century, made and lost huge fortunes in a matter of a few years, we only provided each president’s net worth at their peak.
Correction: A previous version of this piece incorrectly attributed Martha Washington’s wealth to inheritance from her father. In fact, her inheritance came from her deceased first husband.