On the 20th of January 2017, Donald John Trump officially became the 45th president of the United States. With an estimated personal net worth of $3.7 billion, Trump also officially became the richest president in United States history. Hitherto, America’s richest president was her first George Washington whose net worth, adjusted to 2016 dollars is $580 million.
Washington got the bulk of his wealth from real estate and centuries down the line, he has been dethroned by yet another real estate tycoon, Trump. Evidently, the importance of land ownership cannot be overemphasized in wealth creation.
Other founding fathers who dominate this list of richest American presidents also got their fortune from land ownership and through the ownership of hundreds of slaves.
However, in between those two extreme eras, that is between the founding fathers and Trump, the American economy had greatly evolved, thus, influencing how her future president would come to make their fortune.
Into the 1850’s the number of wealthy presidents declined as most of them in that era were dedicated to public service, thus having their salaries as their major/sole source of income. After their tenure had ended, they earned from their autobiographies and other writings, a practice that has evolved into a trend with the addition of paid speaking engagements (e.g Bill Clinton).
As the 20th century beckoned, a new era for wealth creation emerged. It was an era when the former fledgling industrial sector had fully matured. Therefore, presidents at the time came to earn their wealth from the industrial empires their family had built.
The list below reveals the 15 richest American presidents in history. The figures are based on data originally gathered by 24/7 Wall St. All figures are adjusted to 2016 dollar to ensure direct comparison. The figures also reflect their peak net worth.
To attain the final figure, all forms of income were taken into account including inheritance, real estate, book royalties, companies/businesses owned annual salaries and more. To satisfy your curiosity, Obama didn’t make the list for his net worth of $12.2 million dwarfs compared to that of each of these presidents.
14. Martin Van Buren (8th President)
Net Worth: $29 million
Political Party: Democratic
Years Served: 1837–1841
Life Span: 1782–1862
Martin Van Buren wasn’t only America’s 8th president, he also served as the vice president and secretary of state both under the 7th president Andrew Jackson. His political activity began in his home state of New York where he became a Member of the New York State Senate and subsequently the 9th governor of New York. Once the Attorney General of New York, Van Buren earned most of his fortune from his profession as well as from the numerous lands he owned including the 225-acre “Lindenwald” estate in upstate New York.
13. James Monroe (5th President)
Net Worth: $30 million
Political Party: Democratic-Republican
Years Served: 1817–1825
Life Span: 1758–1831
The last founding father to become president, Monroe during his 8 year rule of the US bought Florida from Spain. His reign also propelled him to his best financial years. Ironically, during the same period he incurred huge debts that came to hunt him after he left office in 1825. To keep his wealth afloat, he sold his 3500 acres Highland plantation now called Ash Lawn-Highland. Once the US minister to UK and France, Monroe married the daughter to a wealthy British officer named Elizabeth.
12. George W. Bush (43rd President)
Net Worth: $40 million
Political Party: Republican
Years Served: 2001–2009
Life Span: Born 1946, Alive
Prior to becoming America’s 44th president, Bush made a fortune from his own oil business called Bush Exploration. When the business faced financial crisis in 1986, he sold it to Harken Energy Corporation in exchange for part of its shares as well as a seat on its board. In 1990, Bush sold his 212,140 shares, earning about $850,000. Also a shrewd investor, Bush sold his shares in Texas Rangers baseball team for $15 million in 1998, 9 years after his initial investment making over 17 times profit. As president of the US, Bush earned over $4 million from salary and allowances. After leaving office, between 2009 and 2011, Bush made $11 million from speaking engagements and a couple more millions from book sales.
11. John Tyler (10th President)
Net Worth: $57 million
Political Party: Whing
Years Served: 1841–1845
Life Span: 1790–1862
John Tyler is perhaps the most lesser-known American president. He served as vice under president William Henry Harrison and assumed the office of the presidency after Harrison’s sudden death. Though his reign may not be the most-frequent topic in history class, Tyler lived as a rich man. He bought a 1,600 acre estate that previously belonged to president Harrison. He also owned a 1,000-acre tobacco plantation. However, the Civil War had a drastic effect on his finances and as a result, his last days on earth were nothing compared to rich days.