The Richest Presidents In US History

Being President of the United States is a pretty big deal, and getting the job isn't easy. The only people who have the time and resources to have a realistic shot are pretty rich — that's a given. Starting with the very first, George Washington, American presidents have generally fallen somewhere on the filthy rich scale.

Of course, everything is relative. While generally speaking all presidents are wealthy, when you dig down into the numbers there's quite a range. Within the tiny subset of American politicians who have been elected president, some have been merely rich while others have been fabulously wealthy. How fabulously? Well, according to Forbes the current occupant of the White House, Joe Biden, is worth about $8 million — and that puts him firmly in the bottom half of any list of richest presidents.

The connection between wealth and political power isn't news to anyone who's ever lived in the United States at any time during its history. But the sheer amount of wealth controlled by our presidents is pretty eye-opening. Here are the richest presidents in U.S. history, as well as what they were or are worth (in inflation-adjusted dollars).

John Tyler: $57.7 million

There's a reason you just had to remind yourself that a guy named John Tyler was president. As noted by the Christian Science Monitor, Tyler's nick name in the press was "His Accidency." He was elected Vice President in 1841, but President William Henry Harrison died just a month into his term, elevating Tyler to the top job.

As reported by USA Today, Tyler was already rich when he entered the White House. He inherited a tobacco plantation from his father, and his wife, Letitia, was a wealthy woman. She passed away while he was in office, leaving him her fortune. This was good for Tyler, because his presidency was tumultuous. According to Britannica, Tyler's entire cabinet resigned at one point, and his own political party removed him from party membership. That pretty much ended any hope Tyler might have had for a second term, so being able to go home and sleep on a bed of cash was probably pretty comforting.

How big was that bed? According to Business Insider and Money Inc, inflation-adjusted estimates range between $50 and $60 million, which is nothing to sneeze at even if it makes him just the 12th richest president in history at his peak. After his peak net worth it was a rapid decline, though. According to History, Tyler's large family and his poor handling of his money rapidly eroded his estate, and he died virtually penniless.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: $66.8 million

Although the Roosevelt family was very wealthy when our 32nd president was born, Franklin D. Roosevelt was not personally wealthy until after he became president (via The Museum of American Finance). FDR's father left the bulk of his fortune to his wife, Sara. According to History, for most of the president's adult life he depended on his mother for money. This was the case even after he married his distant cousin, Eleanor, who brought considerable assets to the marriage.

That's not to say FDR wasn't rich — according to USA Today he was worth close to $69 million dollars. But since it was family money and not personal wealth, he had to go through his mother to access it. That left him dependent on income he received for his various public service positions and any investments he could put together. That limited his income, and he typically spent more than he earned. Most years, he needed loans from his mother to get by.

When his mother passed away in 1941, FDR finally became personally wealthy — just in time for World War II to break out, and only a few short years before he passed away at age 63.

Herbert Hoover: $75 million

Our 31st president, Herbert Hoover, is mainly remembered as the unlucky mope sitting in the White House when the Great Depression hit the U.S. like a ton of suddenly worthless bricks. But when Hoover was elected in late 1928, it seemed like the culmination of a pretty terrific—and very American—success story.

According to Britannica, Hoover was born to a rural family in Iowa and enjoyed a stable childhood until his parents died within three years of each other, leaving Hoover an orphan at the age of 9. Hoover was smart and ambitious, and was part of the first graduating class at Stanford University. Using his degree in mining, he quickly put together a small fortune, all while building a reputation as a humanitarian as well as a sharp businessman.

As reported by USA Today, at his peak wealth Hoover was worth about $75 million in today's money. He was so rich that he was the first president to donate his salary to charity. But while that sort of success played well in 1929, by the time Hoover's term ended in 1933 the Great Depression had shifted the narrative. Although History reports that Hoover worked hard to counteract the disaster, he was increasingly perceived as an out-of-touch millionaire, and lost overwhelmingly to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 (per 270 to Win).

Bill Clinton: $75.9 million

William Jefferson Clinton was one of the most popular — and controversial — modern presidents. Winning two elections with less than 50% of the vote (thanks in large part to the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot in both 1992 and 1996, per 270 to Win), Clinton was almost immediately dogged by accusations of corruption, according to Vox.

If Clinton was engaged in shady schemes, it didn't seem to help him much financially. After never earning more than $35,000 a year before becoming president, he entered office with the lowest net worth of any incoming president ever. In fact, according to Yahoo! he actually left the White House millions of dollars in debt. But he also left the White House something of a celebrity politician, and his popularity on the speaking circuit and a few lucrative book deals allowed him to not just recover financially, but to become pretty rich. According to The Motley Fool, Clinton earned a $15 million advance for his memoir "My Life," and regularly gets six figures for public appearances.

Today Bill and his wife, Hillary, are estimated to be worth about $120 million as a couple, with Bill's portion estimated at $75 to 80 million. Not bad for someone who was worse than broke after spending eight stressful years in the White House.

Lyndon Baines Johnson: $98 million

According to The New York Times, Lyndon Johnson was basically broke when he married his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, in 1934. As reported by USA Today, Lyndon's father lost all the family's money when the future president was just a child. But when Lyndon passed away, he was an extremely wealthy man, with a fortune worth close to $100 million in today's dollars.

Slate explains the crucial role that Lady Bird played in building their fortune. In 1943, Lady Bird purchased a radio station, KTBC. This required the approval of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was under threat of dissolution at the time. It's widely suspected that Lyndon used his growing political influence to save the FCC in exchange for easily getting a license for Lady Bird to operate KTBC. The radio station proved to be the foundation of the financial empire the Johnsons would build over the next few decades — in part from advertising rates from local businesses under pressure from Lyndon.

According to The Motley Fool, Lady Bird's initial investment in the station was just $41,000, but it was eventually worth $150 million as she purchased more stations and moved into television. When Lyndon passed away in 1973, the family's wealth was privately distributed among relatives, so a precise accounting has never been done.

James Madison: $100+ million

As you might imagine, a white guy who helped organize an entire revolution in order to avoid paying taxes was born pretty rich. According to Britannica, Founding Father and fourth President of the United States James Madison was born in 1751 in Virginia and attended Princeton University. He inherited a great deal of wealth from his father, mostly in land (his estate at Montpelier was about 5,000 acres, making him one of the largest landowners in the county). And since this was antebellum Virginia, he also owned a lot of slaves, according to Politifact.

USA Today reports that Madison's peak net worth has been estimated at about $101 million in today's dollars. According to The Motley Fool, that peak occurred before he entered the White House, and his financial decline actually began while he was in office. The price of tobacco fell, and mismanagement of his plantation, which had been largely entrusted to his relatives, sapped money out of his estate. Later in his life, Madison was forced to sell much of his land, slaves, and other assets.

Another factor in Madison's financial collapse, according to The White House Historical Association, was his stepson, Payne Todd. Todd was a drinker, a brawler, and a gambler, and his debts contributed greatly to Madison's money problems. According to Politico, when Madison died in 1836, his wife Dolley was forced to pay Todd's debts, which left her penniless.

Andrew Jackson: $119 million

Prior to the 21st century, Andrew Jackson was probably the most controversial president ever elected. As noted by History, he was combative to a fault, overtly racist, and responsible for the needless deaths of countless Indigenous people. He was also pretty rich, but even that is controversial, since Jackson was born into poverty and became rich largely because he was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of slavery in American history. It's estimated that he owned as many as 300 slaves, who worked on his large estate, the Hermitage, as well as traveling with him as a personal staff. Of course, it's easier to make money when you don't have to pay any of the people working for you.

According to USA Today, Jackson augmented his wealth by marrying into a rich family, but The Motley Fool notes that the bulk of his fortune, estimated at its peak to be about $119 million, was derived from cotton produced at the Hermitage via slave labor. One of the most memorable achievements of Jackson's presidency, according to NPR, came in 1835 when he actually paid off the entirety of the U.S. National debt — meaning that the country owed exactly zero dollars. It was the first and last time this was ever achieved. Jackson's finances declined rapidly once he was out of office, and he entered into significant debt as he aged.

Theodore Roosevelt: $125 million

Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th president, was a distant cousin of the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As such, he was also born pretty rich. Financhill reports that the Roosevelts made their cash as farmers, importers, and in various other ventures. It helps to get in early — the Roosevelt family at one point owned the land that today comprises midtown Manhattan.

Teddy inherited his wealth. According to USA Today, he received a sizable trust fund — The New York Times reports it was about $60,000 in 1878, which would be about $1.7 million today (per Inflation Calculator) and there was family money as well. His peak net worth was about $125 million. Unfortunately, he wasn't very good at money. According to The Intercept, he lost a lot of his wealth in a failed ranching venture, and he had to work as a writer for a time in order to make ends meet. He compounded this by entering public service as a very young man and spending most of his life in politics, as noted by The Motley Fool.

Despite being born into wealth, Teddy Roosevelt became known as the "trust-busting" president who went after big businesses and unfair concentrations of wealth, as noted by Britannica.

Thomas Jefferson: $212 million

Thomas Jefferson was incredibly rich — USA Today reports his peak net work as north of $200 million in today's dollars, which is pretty good! However, for a guy who helped create a nation out of thin air, he was absolutely terrible at handling money (via Forbes). He lived way beyond his means most of his life, and only barely managed to escape complete ruin by dying. But even that only managed to shift ruin to his family, who eventually had to sell everything to pay off his debts.

The Motley Fool notes that Jefferson inherited his wealth in the form of Monticello, his Virginia plantation. At about 5,000 acres, it was a money-generating machine for our third president. As with most other landowning presidents from the period, that money was mainly generated by the hundreds of slaves that Jefferson owned, according to Business Insider.

Jefferson's money troubles gradually worsened over the course of his life — some believe he was a compulsive shopper, the sort of person who would have several credit cards embedded in ice if he'd been born a few centuries later. After leaving office, his situation got worse and worse, and shortly before his death he tried to sell Monticello in order to ensure that his daughter wouldn't inherit his debts.

George Washington: $525 million

Our first president and most famous Founding Father was filthy rich, which explains his enthusiasm for a revolution that canceled his tax bill. As noted by The Motley Fool, George Washington was born into a relatively wealthy Virginia family. His father died when George was just 11 years old, and the future president took over the plantation and learned stuff like accounting. Then his mother died, and he inherited her estate. Later, he married the wealthy widow Martha Custis. Washington was good with his money, too, avoiding debt and investing in profitable businesses. According to Business Insider, his whiskey distillery was the most profitable distillery of its time.

All of this paid off. According to USA Today, Washington's peak net worth was about $525 million in today's dollars, which makes him one of the richest presidents of all time by a big margin. He had a Midas touch in office, too — as a national hero, the new U.S. Congress voted to pay him what was at the time an enormous salary of $25,000, which was 2% of the entire federal budget at the time. If we paid Joe Biden 2% of the federal budget (currently about $6 trillion, per The Balance), he'd be getting $120 billion.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy: $1 billion

Our 35th president was a member of one of the most famous political families in American history. However, it's good to remember that the Kennedy kids only had the time and resources to run for office because their father, Joseph Kennedy, amassed an incredible fortune. Contrary to rumors that he was a bootlegger whose money was dirty, according to History, Joseph Kennedy built on his family already significant wealth by getting into the alcohol business just as prohibition ended and getting out of the stock market just as the Great Depression hit. He then became a successful investor and banker.

By the time Joseph's son, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was elected president in 1959, the family fortune was enormous. After marrying wealthy oil heiress Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, if JFK had ever actually inherited his father's money, he would have been worth about $1 billion according to MarketWatch. The problem? JFK never technically inherited. The Kennedy money was held in a trust for all the Kennedy children, as reported by The Motley Fool. This meant that JFK was able to live the life of a billionaire without, technically, being a billionaire — a distinction is not particularly meaningful to most Americans.

Donald John Trump: $2.5 billion

Donald Trump is a bit of a showman, and that has made tracking his actual net worth difficult. Born into a wealthy family, according to CNBC he once claimed that his father had given him a "small loan" of about $1 million to start his real estate business, but the loan was probably closer to $60 million.

Trump has routinely claimed a net worth without showing much proof, and, as noted by Bloomberg, he has famously fought to keep his income tax records secret so no one can know how rich he actually is. Still, even assuming that the former president likes to shine his numbers a bit there is little doubt that Donald Trump is the richest man to ever be elected President of the United States. Forbes estimates his actual net worth to be about $2.5 billion — a lot less than the $3+ billion Trump himself often claims. And as noted by The Washington Post, in 2011 Trump's wealth was estimated at $2.9 billion, so not only has he lost money, he's also no longer listed on the Forbes 400 list of richest people.

One thing to keep in mind about net worth is that it's a result of subtracting debt from assets. While Trump's real estate holdings are significant — 1290 Avenue of the Americas in New York City alone is valued at about $2 billion — he has significant debt on many of his assets, including $950 million owed on this building alone.