Top Paid U.S. Presidents Throughout History

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:31:27 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Arnold Sachs/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Sometimes, United States presidents are just as famous for their financial success as they are for their political endeavors. Throughout history, most presidents have been wealthy, and they usually obtained their wealth prior to holding office, either from successful businesses or from huge inheritances.

Who was the richest president in history? We’ve ranked 30 of the nation’s richest U.S. presidents throughout history, from least to most wealthy. You might be surprised when you get to number one. For proper comparison, the net worth numbers have been adjusted for inflation to 2019 dollars.

Warren G. Harding, $1 Million

As the 29th president, Warren G. Harding served from 1921 to 1923. While he was growing up, Harding lived in a farming community in Marion, Ohio. Writing and journalism were his passions, so he started his own feisty newspaper business called the Marion Daily Star. 

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Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress

Harding's newspaper business was successful, but that's not the only way he became rich. His marriage contributed to his wealth, too. In fact, his wife's father was a prominent Marion banker. Sadly, Harding only served as president for two years because his life suddenly ended.

William McKinley, $1 Million

William McKinley wasn't born into wealth. Throughout his life, he actually wore many hats, from schoolteacher to soldier to local prosecutor. While McKinley practiced law, he defended a group of coal miners and got almost everyone in the case acquitted. 

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Photo Courtesy: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

McKinley was also a member of the House of Representatives from Ohio. However, he was deep in debt while he served as the governor of Ohio in 1893. With some help from friends and politicians, McKinley was able to get out of bankruptcy. From 1897 to 1901, he served as the 25th president.

Franklin Pierce, $2 million

Before becoming the 14th president, Franklin Pierce worked as a Senator and a Member of the House of Representatives from New Hampshire. He also practiced law and owned many properties. In 1831, Pierce joined the military and was active until 1848. 

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Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress

Pierce's family actually inspired him to serve in the military and get involved in politics. In fact, his father, Benjamin, was a lieutenant in the American Revolutionary War before becoming a state legislator, farmer and tavern-keeper. Pierce's mom came from a well-to-do aristocrat family.

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, $3 million

Rutherford Hayes's father was a storekeeper. Sadly, he passed away before Hayes was born. Growing up, Hayes looked up to his uncle as a father-figure. In 1843, Hayes began studying law, and it definitely worked out. For 15 years, Hayes defended refugee slaves in trials as an attorney.

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Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress

Hayes also served as a Member of the House of Representatives and governor of Ohio. From 1877 to 1881, Hayes served as the 19th president. After his presidency, he settled into Spiegel Grove, a massive and beautiful home in Fremont, Ohio.

William Howard Taft, $3 million

As the 27th president, William Howard Taft served from 1909 to 1913. During his presidency, his wife called him "Sleeping Beauty" because he often snoozed during public functions, like funerals, operas and church services. Like other presidents, Taft wasn't born into a rich family.

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Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress

Taft’s father was a U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of War. His parents often pushed him to work hard and succeed. Taft became a lawyer and judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals before running for president. After his presidency, Taft returned to the court of law, becoming the tenth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Millard Fillmore, $4 Million

Many presidents were born into wealthy families, but that wasn’t the case for Millard Fillmore, who served as president from 1850 to 1853. Fillmore was born in the Finger Lakes country of New York, where he worked on his father’s farm and later apprenticed with a cloth maker. He attended school in a one-room classroom and eventually married his teacher, Abigail Powers.

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Photo Courtesy: National Archives/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Fillmore started the university that eventually became the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo). His wealth, an estimated $4 million, may have been accumulated from the university as well as his work as a public servant. Besides serving as president, Fillmore served as vice president to President Zachary Taylor.

Benjamin Harrison, $6.1 Million

Born on a farm in North Bend, Ohio, Benjamin Harrison, who served as president from 1889 to 1893, wasn’t born into a wealthy family. Harrison (the grandson of U.S. President William Henry Harrison) grew up on his family’s farm until he decided to become a lawyer. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and then worked as a crier for the federal court in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Harrison was a highly paid lawyer for 18 years, and one of his biggest clients was Venezuela. (That’s right, the country.) He assisted the country in settling a border dispute. His wealth, approximately $6.1 million, allowed him to own a large Victorian home in Indianapolis. Strangely, his wealth mostly disappeared by the end of his presidential term.

William Henry Harrison, $6.1 Million

Benjamin Harrison’s grandfather, William Henry Harrison, only served as president for 31 days in 1841. Historians aren’t quite sure, but the ninth president most likely died of pneumonia, typhoid or paratyphoid fever just a month after his inauguration. He was the first president to die in office.

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Harrison was lucky and married into wealth. His wife’s (Anna Symmes) father was a judge and wealthy landowner. Harrison added to his assets ($6.1 million) when he inherited approximately 3,000 acres near Charles City, Virginia, from his late mother. Unfortunately, Harrison passed away before he could accomplish anything in his presidency or otherwise. Who knows how much more he could have added to his wealth?

Zachary Taylor, $7.1 Million

The first president on this list to inherit his wealth, Zachary Taylor (who served for just one year from 1849 to 1850) inherited multiple properties in Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana. He acquired a plantation in Mississippi and had a home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It seems he had more money than he knew what to do with, especially for the times.

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Taylor continued to earn more money in land speculation, warehouse leasing and investments. The future president didn’t want to be connected to a specific political belief or party. Based on that goal, Taylor became the first president to be elected without previously serving in a political office.

Gerald Ford, $8.1 Million

Like many other presidents, Gerald Ford had to work for his wealth of approximately $8.1 million. Most of the president’s career was in military and public service, and he invested the money he earned in properties in Michigan and Colorado. Ford served as the 38th president, with his term lasting from 1974 to 1977.

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Following his presidency, he added to his net worth by writing several books, and he served on the boards of various successful companies. Ford will forever be remembered for his bravery as he stepped into the presidency following President Richard Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate scandal. Ford remarked, "This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."

James "Jimmy" Carter, $8.1 Million

Life wasn’t always easy for President Jimmy Carter. Born on a peanut farm in Georgia, he eventually took over the family farm when his father passed away. It took Carter many years to successfully operate the peanut farm, but now he’s essentially the face of the industry. He also devotes a lot of time to humanitarian work.

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Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981, and he eventually built a net worth of $8.1 million. During his presidency, he put his family’s peanut farm in a blind trust. Left unsupervised, the farm failed while he was in Washington D.C. When Carter left the presidency, he was in debt, but he managed to rebound by writing several profitable books.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, $9.1 Million

Dwight D. Eisenhower earned his wealth (approximately $9.1 million) himself. A military man, the future president (1953 to 1961) was a five-star general in the U.S. Army during World War II. He eventually served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Outside of the military, Eisenhower also served as the 13th president of Columbia University.

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In 1950, Eisenhower was appointed the first Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This position, as well as his other military rankings, helped him win the presidential election in 1952. He owned a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that also contributed to his wealth.

James Polk, $11.1 Million

James Polk inherited his wealth, an estimated $11.1 million, from his father, a successful plantation owner and speculator. In addition, Polk’s wife, Sarah Childress, was born into a rich family. Polk also earned some personal wealth from his public service jobs, including his roles as U.S. Speaker of the House and governor of Tennessee.

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Polk, who served as president from 1845 to 1849, seemingly inherited his father’s business skills. He owned a 920-acre estate and 25 slaves. Looking at his presidential career, he is referred to as a "dark horse" because he unintentionally became a presidential nominee when he attended the 1844 Democratic Convention.

Ronald Reagan, $14.2 Million

Ronald Reagan is one of the more unique presidents because he was a movie star long before he led the country as president. He started working in movies and television in the 1940s, and he earned much of his $14.2 million net worth as a Hollywood heartthrob.

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Reagan’s wealth helped him buy real estate in California, including a 688-acre estate near Santa Barbara. The 40th president served two terms from 1981 to 1989. After his presidency, he wrote a successful autobiography, An American Life, which contributed even more to his personal wealth. Reagan lived a comfortable life until his death in 2004.

Richard Nixon, $17.2 Million

Richard Nixon is one of the most famous presidents — perhaps for the wrong reasons. The president, who served from 1969 until his resignation in 1974, is probably best known for his involvement in the infamous Watergate scandal. In the 1970s, five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex. When Nixon’s administration refused to cooperate with the investigation, Nixon received enough criticism to prompt him to resign from office.

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Regardless, Nixon has still managed to accrue personal wealth of $17.2 million over the years. After his presidency, he made money from real estate investments in Florida, New Jersey and California. In addition, he participated in interviews with David Frost and earned money from books.

John Adams, $21.3 Million

It’s hard to follow a phenomenally successful first president to be the second president of the U.S. John Adams, who served as president from 1797 to 1781, knew he wasn’t as wealthy as his predecessor, George Washington, but he and his wife, Abigail Adams, both came from wealthy families. He received an inheritance from his father, and Abigail came from the wealthy Quincy family.

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The couple’s individual wealth combined to reach an estimated net worth of $21.3 million. Apart from this, Adams owned a 40-acre estate, Peacefield, and a thriving law practice. Even though he was a successful man, his son, John Quincy Adams, turned out to be even wealthier.

John Quincy Adams, $23.3 Million

It’s always difficult to step into your father’s shoes and take over the family business. When your father’s business was President of the United States, the pressure to replicate his success was undoubtedly intense. John Quincy Adams, who was up to the challenge and served as president from 1825 to 1829, learned a great deal from his father. He also inherited a majority of his father’s wealth.

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That inheritance included the Peacefield estate, and the 40-acre plantation added to the family’s wealth. It also seems Adams inherited his father’s business sense, which allowed the estate to flourish. Adams didn’t waste his money, like other wealthy people often did.

George H.W. Bush, $26.3 Million

George Herbert Walker (H.W.) Bush was born into a wealthy family. However, he also earned his own fortune investing in offshore drilling companies. At one point, he owned millions of dollars’ worth of properties, most notably the Kennebunkport, Maine, estate (believed to be valued at $5 million).

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He worked his way up through the government hierarchy, serving in roles such as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Director of Central Intelligence before eventually serving as president from 1989 to 1993. Even though Bush was a wealthy man, the former president was known for being selfless and humble and participating in numerous public service projects.

Grover Cleveland, $28.3 Million

Grover Cleveland came from a humble family. His father was a bookseller and a preacher, but neither of these professions suited the future president, who served two separate terms: 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897. Cleveland earned much of his wealth (net worth of $28.3 million) working as a successful lawyer for 12 years. He ultimately served as the mayor of Buffalo, New York, and then as governor of New York.

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Apart from his presidential career, Cleveland sold his elaborate estate outside Washington D.C. in order to purchase his famous Westland Mansion near Princeton, New Jersey. His most notable achievement was becoming the first president to serve two nonconsecutive terms.

Martin Van Buren, $29.3 Million

Like many other presidents, Martin Van Buren acquired a lot of his wealth working as a lawyer. A founder of the Democratic Party, Van Buren, who served as president from 1837 to 1841, also earned part of his $29.3 million of wealth by serving as the governor of New York, U.S. Secretary of State and vice president to Andrew Jackson. That’s quite a career for someone who came from humble beginnings as the son of a tavern keeper and farmer.

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Van Buren shared many characteristics with other presidents from his era, including owning an elaborate estate. His 225-acre estate in upstate New York, named Lindenwald, added to his wealth. Historians note that no matter what happened in his life, Van Buren never forgot his humble beginnings.

James Monroe, $30.4 Million

James Monroe was one of the wealthiest presidents in his prime, with a net worth of $30.4 million. He owned a plantation with 3,500 acres, and his wife (Elizabeth Monroe) was the daughter of a wealthy British officer. Monroe, who served as president from 1817 to 1825, made money from the plantation as well as for serving two terms as leader of the United States.

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Unfortunately, Monroe is one of several presidents who lost the majority of his money in his retirement. He was never able to repay the debts he owed to various individuals, which meant he spent his entire retirement in debt. He was eventually forced to sell his plantation, which was an upsetting decision.

George W. Bush, $40 Million

As the son of a former wealthy president, George W. Bush’s initial wealth came from his famous family. Bush ultimately followed in his father’s footsteps and served as president from 2001 to 2008. However, prior to his presidency, he earned his wealth (about $40 million) as a businessman and governor of his beloved state of Texas.

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In addition, Bush worked in the oil industry and even owned the Texas Rangers baseball team at one time. (Don’t even try to take him out of Texas.) Although he may have left office as an unpopular president, Bush continues to earn money on speaking engagements and book deals.

Barack Obama, $40 Million

It shouldn’t be surprising that Barack Obama is high on this list, considering he’s the most recent president to leave the Oval Office. Serving as president from 2008 to 2016, Obama is estimated to have a net worth of $40 million. He worked as a successful attorney before entering politics and becoming a senator in Illinois.

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Post-presidency, Obama continues to earn a six-figure salary for speaking engagements, book deals and even a Netflix deal. He will produce docu-series, documentaries and features under his new production company, Higher Ground Productions, for Netflix. Obama may no longer be president, but we haven’t seen the last of him yet.

John Tyler, $57.7 Million

John Tyler didn’t earn the majority of his money himself. Instead, he was born into a wealthy family and inherited his father’s 1,000-acre tobacco plantation. In addition, he married an even wealthier woman, Letitia Christian Tyler. The 10th president, serving from 1841 to 1845, Tyler eventually bought his own estate and named it Sherwood Manor.

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Tyler holds the distinction of being the first man to become president because his predecessor, William Henry Harrison, died in office. Tyler thought he would be serving as vice president, but things changed quickly when Harrison died 31 days into his term. Like many former presidents, Tyler eventually found himself in debt and died poor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, $66.8 Million

Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the most famous presidents in U.S. history. Due to special concessions made for World War II, he served the longest amount of time, from 1933 to 1945. He achieved his wealth of $66.8 million from his inheritance and his marriage to Eleanor Roosevelt. Politically, he worked his way up to serving as the governor of New York and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy before becoming president.

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Apart from his political and military achievements, Roosevelt also owned various properties in Georgia, Maine and New York. In addition, he owned his famous Springwood estate, and all his properties added to his wealth. It’s a good thing he was wealthy because the former president eventually had to pay for his extensive medical treatments for polio.

Bill Clinton, $75.9 Million

Bill Clinton earned the bulk of his fortune after his two-term presidency ended. The popular president, who served from 1993 to 2001, inspired the American people with his humble story of working his way up from his childhood in Arkansas to dominating the political scene. From 1979 to 1981, Clinton served as the governor of Arkansas.

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Clinton wasn’t as wealthy as other presidents while he was in the White House, but since leaving office, he has made millions from his 2005 memoir, My Life. He also makes money from paid speaking engagements, and a portion of his $75.9 million net worth comes from his famous wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. It looks like the Clinton family is set for life.

Herbert Hoover, $83 Million

Is it ironic that the president blamed for starting the Great Depression was also one of the wealthiest presidents in U.S. history? Herbert Hoover, who served from 1929 to 1933, had a net worth of $83 million. He earned the majority of his fortune as a mining engineer who climbed the ranks of various mining corporations around the world.

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Hoover eventually controlled mining operations on six continents. When he became president, he decided he didn’t need his presidential salary and donated it to charity. After all, he had plenty of money long before his term. This generosity earned him the nickname the "Great Humanitarian." It’s too bad he couldn’t figure out a way to use his business savvy to boost the U.S. economy.

Lyndon B. Johnson, $109.3 Million

Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded to the presidency after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. Johnson, a native Texan, grew up in rural poverty. He eventually entered the television and radio industry and owned a successful radio and TV station in Austin, Texas, with his wife, "Lady Bird" Johnson.

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The 36th president, who served from 1963 to 1969, he also owned a variety of livestock and land in Texas. These investments expanded his platform and helped him earn his wealth of $109.3 million. If you lived in Texas during the ‘40s, ‘50s or ‘60s, your local TV and radio station was most likely owned by the Johnsons.

James Madison, $113.3 Million

According to history, James Madison didn’t have to work hard for his fortune ($113.3 million). Madison served as president from 1809 to 1817, and like many Founding Fathers, he inherited his wealth from his parents in Orange County, Virginia. His family owned extensive land and operated a plantation, eventually building the famous Montpelier estate. In their prime, Madison’s family was believed to be the largest landowner in Virginia’s Orange County.

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However, Madison’s wealth didn’t sustain him for his whole life. Declining tobacco prices and the financial collapse of his beloved plantation dwindled the majority of his inherited money. He was primarily confined to his bed in the final days of his life.

Andrew Jackson, $132.6 Million

Andrew Jackson (1829 to 1837) earned his wealth of $132.6 million from his Hermitage plantation in Tennessee. The former president’s military successes and support from his wife, Rachel Jackson, also contributed to his wealth. Like his predecessors, Jackson owned a massive estate (the Hermitage) that comprised 1,050 acres. He only had nine slaves on the plantation, but he owned more than 300 slaves throughout his lifetime.

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The Hermitage plantation produced cotton and ultimately became more successful than Jackson’s presidency. The substantial profit allowed Jackson to purchase more land. He sought to act as a representative of the common man, although his experience only included that of an estate owner.

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, $139.7 Million

It was easy for Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt to acquire his $139.7 million fortune. He was born into a prominent, rich family from New York. However, Roosevelt decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a businessman. He simply wasn’t interested in finance. Instead, he had a passion for politics and public service, and he worked hard to win election to the New York State Assembly.

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Roosevelt, who served as president from 1901 to 1909, lived off his family’s inheritance until he unwisely invested most of his fortune in a Dakota Territory ranch. To recover from the loss, Roosevelt worked as an author to pay his bills. He was actually one of the first presidents to earn a living from his writing.

Thomas Jefferson, $236.8 Million

America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, inherited his $236.8 million fortune as a teenager when he assumed responsibility of his family’s 3,000-acre property near present-day Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson later expanded the property to 5,000 acres and built his famous Monticello home. The plantation was a successful business operation and a modern subject of controversy due to the dozens of slaves that worked on it.

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Jefferson, who served as president from 1801 to 1809, remained wealthy for the majority of his life. He earned his own money beyond his inheritance through his successful, innovative political career. He eventually acquired heavy financial debts that required him to sell his Monticello property before his 1826 death.

George Washington, $587 Million

It might seem surprising that America’s first president — the original Founding Father — had a net worth of $587 million. Everyone knows George Washington, who served two terms from 1789 to 1797, wasn’t poor, but you probably don’t know exactly how rich he was or how he made his fortune. Like many others, he inherited a lot of his wealth. In addition, his wife, Martha Washington, inherited money from her father.

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Washington’s successful plantation, Mount Vernon, provided even more income from the land’s five separate farms on 8,000 acres. Washington also owned land in the Ohio Valley, New York and the District of Columbia. Not bad for one of America’s most famous presidents.

John F. Kennedy, $1.1 Billion

John F. Kennedy officially became the wealthiest president upon his election. A member of the prestigious Kennedy family, he served from 1961 until his assassination on November 22, 1963. He was born into great wealth, and his father, Joseph Kennedy Sr., always expected one of his sons to become President of the United States.

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To help secure this goal, Joseph Kennedy stockpiled a fortune working in banking and politics. He was the first chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. JFK was worth a substantial sum ($1.1 billion) long before he entered politics. It also helped that he married Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the daughter of a successful Wall Street stockbroker. To this day, the Kennedy family millions continue to endure — although the family itself has been largely decimated.

Donald Trump, $3.1 Billion

Okay, so maybe the president at the top isn’t that shocking. After all, it will be virtually impossible for any future president to beat Donald Trump’s record net worth of $3.1 billion. The current president was born into some of his wealth, and he became a prominent figure in New York City real estate. He currently owns $1.6 billion in New York real estate, $560 million in non-New York real estate, $550 million in golf courses and clubs, $170 million in branded businesses and $320 million in cash and personal assets.

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Trump was a billionaire before his presidency, and it’s safe to assume his net worth will continue to grow. He once commented that he would donate his presidential salary to charity, just like President Hoover. To find out if he keeps that promise, you’ll have to stay tuned.