The presidency comes with a number of perks, no matter your economic status going in. First and foremost, you’re the leader of the free world — and your name will be remembered and echoed throughout history. It’s a job that allows you to meet and do pretty much anyone or anything you want, all the while traveling the globe in Air Force One. Oh, and you get to live in The White House; a palace situated in the heart of Washington D.C.
But the job also comes with setbacks. The most obvious of which is that a lot of people really, really don’t like you. They may even try to kill you. For most presidents, no matter what they do, there is going to be a subset of the population that actively despises them — even if they’ve made it their mission to improve their lives. On top of that, you probably don’t get much sleep, you need to be able to physically and mentally withstand years of travel and incredibly stressful situations, and also hold the lives of millions, if not billions, in your hands.
And for all of that, you actually don’t make a ton of money. The president earns $400,000, with an expense account worth up to $50,000, and $100,000 for travel. Considering what the job calls for, the American people are actually getting a pretty good deal.
Some have argued for paying the president less, with the thought that a public servant should be just that, and come at a discount. Others have argued for paying the president, and other public servants, more. The argument there being that more money will attract candidates of a higher caliber.
There are world leaders who are immensely rich, but a turn as the President of the United States wouldn’t necessary pad their bank accounts any further. Truthfully, many U.S. presidents would likely be able to earn more in the private sector. Here are some jobs that can pay more than the presidency — though not in every individual circumstance.
1. Business executives
You often hear about how CEOs and business executives are overpaid, but they often make tons of money for a reason. Their jobs are incredibly tough, and when the jobs of potentially millions are in your hands, you’re going to want to be paid well. Some executives earn relatively meager salaries, but a lot of them make tens of millions of dollars per year. That sounds better than the paltry $400,000 the president makes.
2. Doctors and surgeons
Physicians, doctors, and surgeons are all held in fairly high regard, and they are typically associated with high earnings. While doctors, on average, earn less than $200,000 per year, it’s not uncommon for them to make much more than that. Specialists can make well into the millions. When you start talking about radiologists, oncologists, and anesthesiologists, the pay scales go up even further.
Like the medical field, lawyers and attorneys have a wide range of potential earnings. If you plan to be a public defender, for example, you would make a measly $47,500 per year. But for those working for private clients, who make it to the top of their profession? You can make millions. It’s a lot of hard work, though, and long hours. Not as many as the president, mind you. But a lot.
Not all movie and TV stars are created equal, but for the big names that put butts in movie theater seats, the asking price is quite high. There are millions of struggling actors and entertainers out there, but the earnings ceiling for entertainers is incredibly high. For example, Robert Downey Jr. is earning tens of millions for a couple turns as Iron Man.
We often criticize professional athletes as being overpaid, but when you consider that their careers are typically very short, and the amounts of money that the leagues and teams are making, it’s actually not that stark of a contrast. Still, like in the entertainment world, there are outliers. It’s not uncommon for athletes in the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB to make tens of millions. And when you factor in soccer players and boxers? Earnings go through the roof.
6. Finance professionals
Wall Street attracts a lot of talent with some very big paychecks. You’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short, and Wall Street films — all concerning absolutely huge amounts of money. And that’s why people gravitate toward the industry. As a broker, trader, fund manager, etc., there is virtually no limit to what you can earn. More than in the White House.
Ironically, you can make more money once you’ve served your term as president than you do while you’re actually in the Oval Office. After serving, presidents are paid a pension of just over $200,000 per year. Add to that the huge speaking fees ex-presidents can charge, and things like book deals, and you’re earning way more than you were while in office.
One example? Bill Clinton’s book My Life earned him a $15 million advance. It would take decades to earn that much as president.