The 10 richest US presidents

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is worth about $200 million. Where would that rank him on the list of the nation's richest presidents?

By MSN Money Partner Feb 20, 2012 1:31PM

By Douglas A. McIntyre, Michael B. Sauter and Ashley C. Allen, 24/7 Wall St.


24/7 Wall St. on MSN MoneyAfter months of speculation, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently confirmed that he is worth roughly $200 million — give or take a million or more. 24/7 Wall St. examined the finances of all 43 presidents to identify the richest. In addition to being worth more than 99.9% of Americans, if elected president, Romney would also be wealthier than any president except one.


While the other Republican candidates are also millionaires, their wealth does not come close to that of Romney's. Still, judging from the net worth of all presidential nominees, politicians need to be wealthy to run for high office.


The other GOP candidates still in the running made their money more directly from their politics before entering the race. Libertarian candidate Ron Paul, worth between $2.5 million and $5 million, has published a number of best-selling books over the past few years, each of which explores his political ideology. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich became a consultant and political analyst after he resigned from office. According to estimates, he has earned at least $6.5 million and as much as $31 million. Rick Santorum, who worked as a consultant and contributor to Fox News, is worth more than $1 million.


Unlike today’s candidates, the net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth over half a billion in today's dollars, while other presidents went bankrupt. The fortunes of America's presidents are tied to the economy of their time. As the focus of the economy changed, so has the way the presidents made their money.

It's not surprising then to find the first few presidents — from Washington's election to about 75 years later — as large landowners. They generally made money from land, crops and commodity speculation. Of course, this left them highly vulnerable to poor crop yields, and they could lose most or all of their properties because of a few bad years. Similarly, they could lose all of their money through land speculation — leveraging the value of one piece of land to buy additional property.


By 1850, the financial history of the presidency entered a new era. Beginning with Millard Fillmore, most presidents were lawyers who spent years in public service. They rarely amassed large fortunes and their incomes were often almost entirely from their salaries. These American presidents were distinctly middle class and often retired without the means to support themselves anywhere close to the presidential lifestyle. James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, U.S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield had modest net worth when they died.


At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, there was another significant change to the economy. Large, professionally organized corporations in the oil, mining, financial and railroad sectors allowed individuals to amass large fortunes. The Kennedys were wealthy because of the financial empire built by Joseph Kennedy. Herbert Hoover made millions of dollars as the owner of mining companies. Indeed, since the early 20th century, the fortunes of many presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and both of the Bushes, were driven by inherited wealth.

The net worth figures for the 10 wealthiest presidents are in 2010 dollars. Because a number of presidents, particularly in the early 19th century, made and lost huge fortunes in a matter of a few years, the net worth for each president is for the peak time.


In the case of each president, we have taken into account hard assets such as land, estimated lifetime savings based on work history, inheritance, homes and money paid for services, which includes anything from salary as Collector of Customs at the Port of New York to membership on Fortune 500 companies' boards. The net worth includes royalties on books, as well as ownership of companies and yields from family estates. Post continues below.

This is 24/7 Wall St.'s list of the richest U.S. presidents.


10. John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  • Net worth: $1 billion (never inherited his father's fortune)
  • In office: 1961–1963
  • 35th president

Born into great wealth, Kennedy's wife was oil heiress. His father was one of the wealthiest men in America, as well as was the first chairman of the SEC. Almost all of JFK's income and property came from a trust shared with other family members.


9. William Jefferson Clinton

  • Net worth: $38 million
  • In office: 1993–2001
  • 42nd president

Unlike other presidents, Clinton did not inherit any wealth and gained little net worth during 20 plus years of public service. After his time in the White House, however, he earned a substantial income as an author and public speaker. Clinton received a large advance for autobiography. His wife, the current Secretary of State, also has earned money as an author.


8. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • Net worth: $60 million
  • In office: 1933-1945
  • 32nd president

Roosevelt's wealth came through inheritance and marriage. He owned the 800-acre Springwood estate, as well as properties in Georgia, Maine and New York. In 1919, his mother had to bail him out of financial difficulty. He spent most of his adult life in public service. Before he was president, Roosevelt was appointed assistant secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson.


7. Herbert Clark Hoover

  • Net worth: $75 million
  • In office: 1929 – 1933
  • 31st president

An orphan, Hoover was raised by his uncle, a doctor. He made a fortune as a mining company executive. He had a very large salary for 17 years and had extensive holdings in mining companies. Hoover donated his presidential salary to charity. He also owned "Hoover House" in Monterey, Calif.

6. Lyndon Baines Johnson

  • Net worth: $98 million
  • In office: 1963–1969
  • 36th president

Johnson’s father lost all of the family's money when LBJ was a boy. Over time, he accumulated 1,500 acres in Blanco County, Tex., which included his home, called the "Texas White House." He and his wife owned a radio and television station in Austin, Tex., and had a variety of other moderate holdings, including livestock and private aircraft.


5. James Madison

  • Net worth: $101 million
  • In office: 1809-1817
  • 4th president

Madison was the largest landowner in Orange County, Va. His land holding consisted of 5,000 acres and the Montpelier estate. He made significant wealth as Secretary of State and president. Madison lost money at the end of his life due to the steady financial collapse of his plantation.
4. Andrew Jackson

  • Net worth: $119 million
  • In office: 1829–1837
  • 7th president

While he was considered to be in touch with the average middle class American, Jackson quietly became one of the wealthiest presidents of the 1800s. "Old Hickory" married into wealth and made money in the military. His homestead, The Hermitage, included 1,050 acres of prime real estate. Over the course of his life, he owned as many as 300 slaves. Jackson entered considerable debt later in life.


3. Theodore Roosevelt

  • Net worth: $125 million
  • In office: 1901–1909
  • 26th president

Born to a prominent and wealthy family, Roosevelt received a sizable trust fund. He lost most of his money on a ranching venture in the Dakotas and had to work as an author to pay bills. Roosevelt spent most of his adult years in public service. His 235-acre estate, Sagamore Hill, sits on some of the most valuable real estate on Long Island.


2. Thomas Jefferson

  • Net worth: $212 million
  • In office: 1801–1809
  • 3rd president

Jefferson was left 3,000 acres and several dozen slaves by his father. Monticello, his home on a 5,000-acre plantation in Virginia, was one of the architectural wonders of its time. He made considerable money in various political positions before becoming president, but was mired in debt towards the end of his life.


1. George Washington

  • Net worth: $525 million
  • In office: 1789–1797
  • 1st president

His Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, consisted of five separate farms on 8,000 acres of prime farmland, run by more than 300 slaves. His wife, Martha Washington, inherited significant property from her father. Washington made well more than subsequent presidents: his salary was 2% of the total U.S. budget in 1789.


Feb 20, 2012 4:46PM
Anyone out there ever get hired by a poor person? Just asking.
Feb 20, 2012 2:03PM

Ok. the headline is the 10 richest US presidents. But the first half of the article is how much money the republican candidates have. Why didn't they throw in the democrat candidate?


... Because that would remind people that Obama is a 1% just like the people that he's trying to drive people to hate.


People that hate Romney because he's rich, yet like Obama are absolute morons.

Feb 20, 2012 2:20PM

Washington, Jefferson and many of our early presidents and founders became wealthy by their private business, politics were their second callings and many used their private monies to pay for the politics. 

Today politicians get rich from the politics and government, the exact opposite of then.  Could you imagine obama, clinton, Ford or nixon if they had not had politics....they would be $100,000 a year men or less.

Thats why our country WAS great and now in decline, we used to have successful men enter we have men enter politics to be successful.

Feb 20, 2012 2:13PM
"Hoover donated his presidential salary to charity." - can you imagine that happening today?
Feb 20, 2012 4:51PM
It is a shame at some of the comments that has been made. Every President had their good side as well as many faults. The list has been put together quite well. To say that Obama is bankrupt or will be is pure stupidity. He and his his had top selling books since he has been in office. To say that the financial problems of the country came from Obama or Bush is insane. They both added to an already inflated budget. The national debt had been raised 38 times previously before Obama asked to raise it. Every President had challenges and it seems no one wants to work together to fix the problems for the people. Things has become more about the parties and not about really helping the people.
Feb 21, 2012 4:10AM

Greenbeer 54,

You can take all of the money from the rich, tax them at 100%, and we would still be borrowing from China like crazy. A trillion dollars is 1000 billion, the wealthy in the U.S. are not worth anywhere near 1000 billion dollars. We owe the Chinese at least 14,000 billion dollars. WE MUST STOP BORROWING AND SPENDING MONEY THAT WE DO NOT HAVE.

Feb 20, 2012 4:42PM
If I would have known in my younger years that I could have been a multi-millionaire by lying and cheating people and could get away with it, I would have become a politician too!
Feb 20, 2012 2:43PM

Mr Ewent,


Yes, President Obama did inherit the State of the Union.  But, he was hired to fix it.  If I hired a CEO to fix my company, and in 3 1/2 years he made it worse, and the only excuse he could give me was that it wasn't his fault, guess what I would do?


So don't be so sharp of tongue about idiots, instead search your own brain for flaws.

Feb 20, 2012 4:25PM

How is it that someone who is RICH is somehow labeled as bad?


Apparently the country is self destructing, and ready to become a socialist nation. Capitalism is what we are all about. If you are lucky enough, strong enough, smart enough, or work hard enough, you too can make a fortune for yourself.

Feb 20, 2012 5:44PM


To the angry person saying this country was built on blood, I got this to say. You might want to look at your history books a bit better, not all whites were here because they wanted to be here. Some were forced here due to debts they had in england and instead of being kept in prison there they were shipped to the colonies where they worked as they could. Others, came here due to famine in their home land and were worked to near death as indentured servants or in textiles and building the railroad. So maybe, just maybe before you scream at the white man, you might want to see if that white man wasn't in the same boat as everyone else that got crapped on.

Feb 20, 2012 5:16PM



What is interesting, is how anyone like yourself could honestly believe that by cutting taxes on the people is why our national debt has ballooned.   If people have more money in their pocket, they will either spend it, or save it.  Either way, it will support the economy.  If you spend it, there will be more tax revenue from enterprises that produce goods bought.  If you save it, taxes will be paid on Investments.  Winston Churchill once said, "For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle".


Second, If it wasn't for those so-called "rich parasites" that you so rudely call, without knowing what it takes to invest your hard earned/after tax dollars in a new business, people like you and I would not have a job.  This country was built on the free enterprise/capitalis​t system.  It's a constitutional right.  It is the Obama adminstration that has poisoned the minds of the weak by pretending to make it look like it's a terrible thing to be in the 1%.


Would you take a chance with your hard earned dollars to open a new business, or to buy a business?   That's where jobs come from.  If not, don't condemn those that are willing to try.

Feb 20, 2012 2:21PM
Yup - I note that the majority of the 10 richest ex-Presidents were Democrats, or at least liberals before the modern distinctions between Democrats and Republicans were established.  How about some numbers for the poverty stricken Democrats? Oh, yes, MSN doesn't do that!  Let's have an all-out our rich guys against their rich guys.  So, Romney is wealthy.  I don't know about you, but I think I would rather have a personally successful person as my President than a skid-row reject who does not know how to accumulate and maintain personal wealth.  Everyone is so concerned about equality in this country that our schools are now a morass of mediocre equality and the number of people needing some sort of public assistance is greater than the number of people paying for it.  We have clearly dumbed down America, all in the name of what should be a noble cause called equality.  Too bad we have successfully perverted even the prime principle of democracy - equality.  We will go down in history as one of the greatest societies ever to both rise and fall in the name of equality.  When was it exactly that equality started to mean mediocrity?
Feb 20, 2012 2:21PM

How interesting that the republicans seem to be mentioned the most in this article, yet kennedy, clinton and fdr were the richest democratic presidents! There isn't a poor politician in the bunch!

That is what this article should have been about, how the politicians line their pockets with the people's money! 

Feb 20, 2012 5:42PM
HA! Amazing how the people that claim to 'Rescue' Americans from the 1% are so eager to hide the fact that they ARE the 1%! I say to all politicians; Put your money where your mouth is, if you care about Americans, empty your own coffers before making me empty mine. In America I shouldn't be forced to give my money to people without work by people that have loads more cash than I do!
Feb 20, 2012 2:20PM

Your article is supposed to list the 10 richest presidents, but yet you didn't pass up the opportunity to mention the GOP presidential nominees.   Why did you leave out President Obama?  Isn't he also one of the 99.9%?  


It seems to me that if the slant of your reporting is about the 99.9% vs 1%, and your going to list the GOP candidates in your article, then make it fair.

Feb 20, 2012 5:54PM
The only solution I see to the congress issue is TERM LIMITS.  Stop these people from serving forever in a system that corrupts them before they hit the door!!!!!  If they had to go back to a job in  a community where they had to abide by the same laws they create for us, they would think twice before passing 99% of it.  Also if they had to participate in the crappy Obama health care system, that wouldn't have made it to vote either.  There are two classes in conflict here, but they aren't the rich against the poor.  They are the government agsainst the people. Half of this hypocrisy is so blatant too.  Occupy Wall Street had people like Jay Z and others (who are the ultra-rich and got that way through the capitalist system) selling t-shirts at a rally against the ultra rich.  How friggin' pathetic is it that our youth sees them as "heroes" but other rich people as the "bad guys"?  What planet are these people from and how do we send them back?
Feb 20, 2012 9:27PM

then why are we as the tax payers still paying them for what they don't do even after they are out of office


Feb 20, 2012 2:26PM
Notice all the rich Democrats that just "love" the poor and hate the rich.  Sure...
Feb 20, 2012 2:08PM
Can you imagine if the first Presidents had to undergo the scrutiny of the media like the current Presidents do now?
Feb 20, 2012 4:26PM
? No mention of Joe Kennedy shorting the market before the great depression (he possibly contributed to it). And no mention of the money Kennedy earned from bootlegging during prohibition. No mention of Washington financing the Continental Army at times, giving his slaves freedom upon Martha's death, leaving money to support the slaves on Mount Vernon who were too old to work, and GW also used enlightened farming methods on his farms to increase production. The article does cover the moral spectrum, George Washington.
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