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US presidents and their net worth

The first president was also one of the richest at his peak.

By Karen Datko Jul 20, 2010 11:11AM

This guest post comes from J. Money at Budgets are Sexy.

 

Ever wondered how much George Washington was worth? How about HBO legend (and my new fave) John Adams? Or President Obama? Well, you're in for a treat, kiddos. I got a tip from one of our readers that The Atlantic recently did a story on this.

 

It won't help you out in your own financial endeavors, but it'll be great for convo starters. And perhaps it will motivate you a bit too.

 

I was tempted to copy and paste the entire list here, but figured you wouldn't even recognize half of them anyway. At least I didn't remember them (*cough* William Henry Harrison, *cough* Rutherford Birchard Hayes). Instead I decided to grab the ones I personally like myself, along with some others who stood out for one reason or another. A handful of these were pretty shocking.

And before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, don't put too much stock in the details and exact numbers here. A slew of variables come into play, so just use them as a general gauge of success. Here's how The Atlantic calculated wealth:

Having examined the finances of all 43 presidents (yes, 43; remember, Cleveland was president twice), we calculated the net worth figures for each 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 number for each man is based on his net worth at its peak.

So remember, it's in today's dollars and at each president's peak. Some liked to live above their means as they got older (naughty Thomas Jefferson), while others haven't hit their prime yet.

 

Famous presidents, their net worth, and how they built it:
  • George Washington (first president): $525 million; real estate, presidential salary.
  • John Adams (second president): $19 million; real estate, law practice, farm.
  • Thomas Jefferson (third): $212 million; real estate, political positions.
  • Abraham Lincoln (16th): Less than $1 million; attorney.
  • Ulysses S. Grant (18th): Less than $1 million; autobiography.
  • Theodore Roosevelt (26th): $125 million; family trust, real estate, books.
  • John F. Kennedy (35th): $1 billion-ish; family trust (had he inherited it).
  • Lyndon Johnson (36th): $98 million; real estate, business (radio, TV).
  • Richard Nixon (37th): $15 million; interviews (think David Frost), books.
  • Bill Clinton (42nd): $38 million; autobiography, public speaking.
  • George W. Bush (43rd): $20 million; oil, sale of Texas Rangers.
  • Barack Obama (44th): $5 million; mainly book royalties.

It seems the big winners are JKF and good ol' George Washington, with Honest Abe and many others toward the other end of the spectrum. And who knew Obama was down around there too? I guess had I put some thought into it, it would have made sense, but I guess that's why I find this whole thing appealing. I learnt sumthin today!

 

If you're a financial nerd and love this stuff too, I highly recommend checking out the article in its entirety: "The net worth of the U.S. presidents: Washington to Obama."

 

As it mentions in the article, "One of the most important conclusions of this analysis is that the presidency has little to do with wealth. Several brought huge net worths to the job. Many lost most of their fortunes after leaving office. Some never had any money at all." Fascinating stuff.

 

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