U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Wealth
America might not have a royal family, but it's sure had a pretty large correlation between wealth and power, especially in our early years. Fueled by a heavy dose of curiosity, Wikipedia, and the public domain repository of presidential portraits, below we've ranked all the presidents by net worth*.
Perhaps the biggest conclusions from this list? Family money + law firms = you get to be president.
*All figures in 2010 dollars from 24/7 Wall Street's excellent list.
T-44. Harry Truman - < $1 Million
In Office: 1945–1953
Never finished college, came from a farm, worked as a timekeeper on the railroad, slept with the rail-riders...not much money to be made in any of that. Oh, Harry.
T-44. Calvin Coolidge - < $1 Million
In Office: 1923–1929
The man had a nice farmhouse. I've been there. It's in Vermont. He was a lawyer. It was a simple story.
T-44. Woodrow Wilson - < $1 Million
In Office: 1913–1921
He might have a school at Princeton named after him like Kennedy, but he did it through the academy, becoming the president of Princeton after teaching.
T-44. Chester A. Arthur - < $1 Million
In Office: 1881–1885
Chet was a teacher and then a lawyer born in rural Vermont. Unpretentious.
T-44. James A. Garfield - < $1 Million
In Office: 1881–1881
Being a preacher doesn't net you much, but he was a lawyer too, so he never went hungry.
T-44. Ulysses S. Grant - < $1 Million
In Office: 1869–1877
All soldiering. No business. Or lawyering.
T-44. Andrew Johnson - < $1 Million
In Office: 1865–1869
He was a successful tailor, of all things. His work "never ripped or gave way," he boasted.
T-44. Abraham Lincoln - < $1 Million
In Office: 1861–1865
You know this story. There is not much cash involved. But a ton of logs.
T-44. James Buchanan - < $1 Million
In Office: 1857–1861
The only president to never marry. Buchanan almost married a rich girl (who was,TMZ reported, suspicious of his motives) but it was broken off when he visited a friend's wife.
T-34. Warren G. Harding - $1 Million
In Office: 1921–1923
They say he was a "journalist," but he was also a businessman, owning the Marion Daily Star, which gave him a loud voice. (He was also very corrupt, giving all his friends big positions and involving himself in the biggest imbroglio up until Watergate.)
T-34. William McKinley - $1 Million
In Office: 1897–1901
A former private in the Union army, he made a million through lawyering and politics.
32. Franklin Pierce - $2 Million
In Office: 1853–1857
Apparently regarded as one of the worst presidents in history for his failure to prevent the Civil War, lawyer Franklin didn't have much money, since he was born in a log cabin.
31. William Howard Taft - $3 Million
In Office: 1909–1913
Wikipedia says he was born into the "Powerful Taft Family," but how powerful could it have been with that modest sum? A lifelong government man who held both the office of the Presidency as well as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he was forced to accept public sector compensation. He apparently didn't starve, though.
31. Rutherford B. Hayes - $3 Million
In Office: 1877–1881
Lawyer. Military man. Presidential cliche.
29. Millard Fillmore - $4 Million
In Office: 1850–1853
Like Lincoln, Millard was born in a log cabin. But he did alright thanks to his legal work and politics.
T-28. Benjamin Harrison - $5 Million
In Office: 1889–1893
He had some of his grandfather's money—also on this list—but added to the pile using politics and law, like everyone else on this list.
T-28. William Henry Harrison - $5 Million
In Office: 1841–1841
Born on a plantation, he had his family money, which was good because he had a career in the military, which came with military pay.
26. Zachary Taylor - $6 Million
In Office: 1849–1850
Zach made his cash the old fashioned way—through daddy's plantation. He was a career military man, a Major General by profession.
T-25. Jimmy Carter - $7 Million
In Office: 1977–1981
Peanuts and public speaking.
T-25. Gerald Ford - $7 Million
In Office: 1974–1977
He might have had some money from a prominent banker parent, but it looks like he made most of his cash as a lawyer and politician.
23. Dwight D. Eisenhower - $8 Million
In Office: 1953–1961
Ike was a career military man, but he developed quite a nice nest egg as General of the Army. He deserved that one, for sure.
22. James Polk - $10 Million
In Office: 1845–1849
Another cotton plantation owner, Polk was a classic slave-owning a**h**e but on a smaller scale.
21. Barack Obama - $12 Million
In Office: 2009–present
Yet to be immortalized in oils, our 44th President made his money through law and authoring a trio of best-sellers.
20. Ronald Reagan - $13 Million
In Office: 1981–1989
Ain't no business like show business.
19. Richard Nixon - $15 Million
In Office: 1969–1974
Tricky Dick was a lawyer in California, doing litigation for oil companies before moving to Washington, D.C. to get into politics.
18. John Adams - $19 Million
In Office: 1797–1801
He didn't have a ton of family money, didn't make much as a teacher or as a lawyer in Massachusetts, but his stature as a lawyer and politician grew; and since he lived until he was 90, so did his fortune.
17. George W. Bush - $20 Million
In Office: 2001–2009
With oil and baseball (owner), we're not sure how W only has $20 million. Very curious.
16. John Quincy Adams - $21 Million
In Office: 1825–1829
He was a lawyer, diplomat, and professor—pretty much the consummate career politician. That earned him something, but we suspect an inheritance was key.
15. George H. W. Bush - $23 Million
In Office: 1989–1993
Using his father's connections, he broke into the oil business and started a fat oil company.
14. Grover Cleveland - $25 Million
In Office: 1885–1889, 1893–1897
This lawyer won the popular vote three times and has been the only U.S. President to serve two terms not in a row. His father was a minister, so Grover made his own bones. (Though his rich uncle helped.)
13. Martin Van Buren - $26 Million
In Office: 1837–1841
Slave-owning rich family. Lawyer. Par for the course, in those times.
12. James Monroe - $27 Million
In Office: 1817–1825
If you're a lawyer by trade, it helps to have a plantation to pay the bills.
11. John Tyler - $51 Million
In Office: 1841–1845
Lawyer. Aristocrat. 'Nuff said.
10. Bill Clinton - $55 Million
In Office: 1993–2001
Even though he was just a lawyer born into a modest home, Clinton has made an unconscionable amount with his public speaking. Modernity + celebrity = straight cash homie.
9. Franklin D. Roosevelt - $60 Million
In Office: 1933–1945
Came from one of the wealthiest families in New York State. He could have pumped gas and still placed this high.
8. Herbert Hoover - $75 Million
In Office: 1929–1933
Not a lawyer! He was a mining engineer, a civil engineer, and a businessman. He did quite well.
7. Lyndon B. Johnson - $98 Million
In Office: 1963–1969
A teacher by trade, he made his money through his lovely wife, Lady Bird, and having a monopoly on a radio station.
6. James Madison - $101 Million
In Office: 1809–1817
The author of the Bill of Rights was a classic Virginian: owning a huge number of slaves on his tobacco plantation.
5. Andrew Jackson - $119 Million
In Office: 1829–1837
Born into poverty, A.J. gained traction as a lawyer and then bought a plantation, reaping him millions. He also enjoyed dueling and committed a genocidal atrocity.
4. Teddy Roosevelt - $125 Million
In Office: 1901–1909
Author, historian, explorer...Teddy was a born businessman and socialite. He knew how to play the game.
3. Thomas Jefferson - $212 Million
In Office: 1801–1809
His entrepreneurial spirit and law career eventually did help, but he got his cash from his wealthy slave-owning family.
2. George Washington - $525 Million
In Office: 1789–1797
Did you know Georgie was so wealthy? Well, he had a tobacco plantation with hundreds of slaves. That'll do it.
1. John F. Kennedy - $1 Billion
In Office: 1961–1963
JFK's New Mexico drug empire coaxed in an unconscionable amount of cash. Just kidding, it was family money going all the way back to P.J. Kennedy.
Or was it?
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