Top Paid U.S. Presidents Throughout History
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.