US Presidents and Their Personal Finance Facts

Only 44 Americans have had the fame of being the President of the United States, but you may be surprised to find how much like you and me those men were. Having more power than most of us will ever dream of (or even want) it can seem strange to realize that while some were successful with money, others struggled financially just like most of us.

personal finance facts about the US presidents

Here are some fun personal financial facts about our Presidents.

The Golden Touch

  • Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer before becoming our 33rd president. He was a Stanford graduate who worked in the gold fields of Australia. If you adjust his starting salary for today’s inflation he was a college grad making $133,000 a year. Not bad.
  • Hoover didn’t sit on his heels though. He worked his way up through the mining industry becoming an executive. He also made wise investments, so wise that he had a net worth that by today’s standards would be $71 million dollars.
  • George W. Bush was a pretty savvy investor as well. In 1989 President Bush became a co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team for a mere $600,000. Not long before he became the 43rd POTUS he sold that perk for roughly $14.9 million dollars.
  • George Washington didn’t really need his Presidential salary, he was one of the richest men in the country before being elected.
  • President Washington loved the aristocratic life and spent money like a champ.
  • Unfortunately not long after he married Martha, Washington’s own source of income, tobacco sales and export, was not going well. He found himself in debt to his oversees contractor.
  • In a testament to the American Dream this personal finance fact has a happy ending. Washington became budget conscious, got his spending under control, and expanded his financial interests. He included other crops in his tobacco farm and began working in other areas like horse breeding and whiskey production. Wonder what a bottle of Washington Whiskey would be worth today?
  • Thomas Jefferson spend the bulk of his life in debt and when he died he owed what would be nearly $2 million dollars by today’s standards. Sort of makes your credit card bill not seem so bad huh?
  • When William McKinley was Governor of Ohio in 1893 he declared bankruptcy. He still became our 25th president only three short years later.
  • In his younger years Abraham Lincoln tried to make his fortune in groceries, taking on William Berry as a partner. This personal financial fact goes bad when his partner died and Lincoln was left with so many bills he termed it “The National Debt.”
  • Take heart all you failed retailers. Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States tried his hand at a owning a clothing store but went out of business in 1922. He lost $30,000, adjusted for inflation that’s $400,000. He never declared bankruptcy even with the loss and within twelve years he had his finances back under control.
  • Of course a lot of Washington’s money came from marrying Martha, a wealthy widow of a successful painter.

More like the Common Folk

  • Not all bad personal finance facts began before being president. Ulysses S. Grant had a good run as America’s 18th president but then invested his wealth with a brokerage run by the 1884 answer to Bernie Madoff, a man named Ferdinand Ward. His brokerage was a Ponzi scheme and when the whole thing came apart Grant was left close to destitute.
  • In a bid to pull himself up by his bootstraps and not leave his own debts unpaid President Grant sold all of his mementos from his time in the Civil War. He had a personal loan of $150,000 from well-known William Vanderbilt who was a railroad mogul. Even after selling all of his treasured keepsakes he could not raise enough to pay the debt but Vanderbilt accepted what he was able to offer as payment in full.

Getting Paid To Be President

If you were president what would your personal finance facts look like?

  • You could count on an annual base salary of $400,000
  • You would have an additional expense account of $50,000
  • Since you have to get around you’d have a nontaxable travel account of $100,000
  • It’s a lot of pressure being president, you’ll need to stay entertained. You have $19,000 a year to play all the golf and rent all the Netflix you could need.


Not as much as you might think. If President Obama was making the same annual pay rate as George Washington did in 1789, which at that time was 2% of the United States budget he’d be making a sweet $66.6 billion dollars a year in rough figures. Sign me up for THAT job.