Being President isn’t the worst gig in the world. Sure, it comes with more than its share of headaches but the pay and perks aren’t too bad: Air Force One, Marine One, a Presidential limousine with a driver, a fully staffed shack on Pennsylvania Avenue, plus a Federal holiday in your honor (President’s Day) just to name a few.
Our nation’s wealthiest president, Donald Trump, has vowed to take a salary of no more than $1. I guess when you are worth billions you can afford to do that, but he’s not the first.
George Washington also refused a salary, but was later required by Congress to take one on the argument that a president without a salary is vulnerable to bribery and other corruption.
Presidents Kennedy and Hoover, both quite wealthy in their own right, donated their presidential salaries to charity.
So how much money does a president make?
Presidential Salary. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were paid $25,000, more than $600,000 in today’s dollars. In 2001 Congress increased the President’s salary from $200,000 to $400,000 per year. In addition to their salary, presidents also get a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 non-taxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. Not to mention the many perks of the office like those listed above.
In addition to a salary that easily ranks in the top 1% of all Americans, presidents get a nice retirement package as well. Thank you Harry S. Truman.
The total value of their pension and other benefits is hard to calculate. A Secret Service detail doesn’t come cheap. Presidents Bush and Clinton have retirement tabs that come to more than $1 million a year each.
Nevertheless, the basic pension is about $207,000 plus adjustments for inflation. They also get an office and a budget for staff. Plus free postage for life. Not that they need it.
The real payday comes after a president leaves office. All presidents since Jimmy Carter have made millions in book royalties and speaking fees after leaving the White House. Ronald Reagan made $2 million for two speeches he gave in Japan shortly after his term as president ended.
For total retirement income, Bill Clinton tops the list. In 2011 he is estimated to have earned over $13 million in speaking fees alone. During the period of 2001 to 2015 his total estimated earnings from speaking fees, book royalties and other sources exceed $220 million.
See? I told you. Not a bad gig.