All the Ways Former Presidents and First Family Members Make Money After Leaving the White House
It doesn’t pay to be president. A $400,000 annual salary hardly justifies a 24/7 work load and the constant pressure of having the entire country’s welfare on your shoulders. But being an ex-president is a direct route to million-dollar paydays — at least that’s what our former U.S. leaders’ career paths suggest. It wasn’t always normal to cash in post-presidency, but recent presidents have taken their public influence and morphed it into significant income through a variety of channels for their entire family.
Here’s how 14 presidential family members managed to profit big time from their White House stints, plus one former president who absolutely refused to do so, no matter what.
1. Gerald Ford
The idea to cash in on presidential influence largely began with Gerald Ford. His ability to make money – something like $1 million within a year of leaving the White House — changed the game forever. Like many presidents who appear on this list, he made paid speeches and accepted high-paying board memberships at companies like 20th Century Fox and American Express.
His efforts to monetize the presidency is also marked by the creation of the presidential medal collection in a deal he penned with Franklin Mint. He encouraged all Americans to buy the coins to enrich their “knowledge and appreciation of the heritage of freedom we enjoy.”
Next: A man who made money off his own controversy
2. Richard Nixon
With a presidency as dramatic as Richard Nixon’s, it’s no surprise he managed to earn a small fortune after his stint in the White House. Nixon published seven books but chose to nix the idea of paid speeches. He did, however, sell a TV interview to David Frost, who managed to coax an apology from the President while on air. Other large funds came from real estate endeavors, as Nixon was one of the few presidents born without any inheritance. He died with a net worth of $15 million.
Next: A infamous first lady
3. Jackie Kennedy Onassis
Celebrity Net Worth lists former first lady, Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ net worth at about $50 million. While living in the White House, she sold a guidebook for $1 each, which is still in publication today. It’s unclear whether her worth is the result of her ties to the Kennedy family fortune or her second marriage to shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Her children, as you’ll read next, have all done well for themselves, but Jackie didn’t actively pursue work. She suffered from depression eventually died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994.
Next: The richest Kennedy kid
4. Caroline Kennedy
The Kennedy family is wealthy even without presidential and political accolades. Caroline Kennedy, the sole surviving child of former president John F Kennedy, is worth at least $250 million. America loves reading all the juicy details about her family, so she’s received plenty of royalties as a book author. She also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan for three years. Rumors swirl she could run for president in 2020, which could cause her net worth to skyrocket even higher.
Next: One of the many presidents with high-paying book deals
5. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter was broke upon leaving the white house. But as with many former presidents, he cashed in on a few lucrative book deals. Fourteen to be exact. He won the Nobel Peace Prize — which comes with a $1 million stipend — in 2002 for his human rights efforts and Camp David Accord contributions. Celebrity Net Worth estimates Carter’s net worth is around $7 million, thanks to post-presidential income like the Carter Center and his professorship at Emory University in Atlanta.
Next: This president caught flack for making money in this way
6. Ronald Reagan
When it comes to the most expensive presidential speeches, Ronald Reagan surely sits near the top. Media outlets had a field day once they learned the Reagan’s pocketed $2 million for a weeks’ worth of speeches in Japan in 1989. Both he and his wife seemed to cash in post-presidency, as Nancy Reagan died with a $25 million net worth and Ronald with $13 million.
Next: The king of the podium.
7. Bill Clinton
CNN once dubbed Bill Clinton “the reigning king of the podium.” He earned the seemingly standard speaking fee of $125,000 per speech upon leaving Washington but later hiked his rate to $250,000 to $500,000 per speech. He was quoted as saying “I’ve never had any money until I got out of the White House, but I’ve done reasonably well since then.”
Forbes says book deals have earned him roughly $38 million and the Clinton presidential pedigree allowed him to bill more than $15 million per client as a consultant in 2015.
Next: How about Hillary?
8. Hillary Clinton
Hillary is half the reason why the Clintons were able to bank more than $230 million after cutting ties with the White House. Even before she began her own presidential run, Hillary nabbed a $14 million advance for Hard Decisions. Many people think publisher Simon & Schuster didn’t make back the advance since book sales actually plummeted after its first week on the shelf.
She also helped establish the Clinton Foundation. Whether the duo profits from the foundation remains controversial, but it’s pretty clear the non-profit organization brings in significant dough each year via donations.
Next: Let’s not forget about Chelsea
9. Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, is worth about $15 million. But how she makes her money is slightly less cut-and-dry. Clinton does not receive a salary from her work with the Clinton Foundation, and though she serves on the board of Directors at Expedia, it’s reported she doesn’t earn more than $45,000 per year plus stock options. Chelsea inked a staggering $600,000 deal with NBC to produce a few “feel good” videos in 2011, but that was short lived. She’s written a few books, but Breitbart reports any residual book income will go to charity.
Next: A man with a story to tell
10. George W. Bush
Many people wanted to hear what it was like to serve as president during the 9/11-War on Terror era. George W. Bush earned $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies of Decision Points where he discussed just that. He’s since scheduled a few hundred speeches that net him between $100,000 to $175,000 a pop. The Daily Beast calculates these closed-to-the-press speeches have earned him at least $15 million since leaving the White House.
Next: The Bush twins do pretty well for themselves, too!
11. The Bush Twins
The Bush twins were college students when their father moved into the White House. After graduating from the University of Texas, Austin, Jenna Bush Hager became the editor-at-large at Southern Living magazine, a UNICEF Next Generation chair, and most recently, an NBC correspondent. Her net worth is roughly $4 million.
While monetary information isn’t available for Barbara Pierce Bush, she graduated from Yale University and became the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps. She’s also a Planned Parenthood supporter who notably endorsed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
Next: How Barack manages to cash in post-presidency
12. Barack Obama
As the most recent former president — and the youngest — Barack Obama’s family has the highest earning potential of them all. Post-presidency, he secured a $65 million book deal and rakes in about $400,000 per speech. He is in advanced talks with Netflix to produce a series of inspirational stories available to over 118 million worldwide subscribers. This is a far cry from the man who was worth meager millions before hitting the White House.
Next: A woman making her own money
13. Michelle Obama
The other half of the Obama dynasty will make her own money in a big way. She’s part of the $65 million book deal, suggesting that she profited about $30 million herself. And to prove how popular she is, she also has a $200,000 speaking fee, which is on par with many of the ex-presidents.
Next: What about Trump and family?
14. The Trump family
We’ll have to wait to see just how much money being an ex-president earns Donald Trump and his family, but rest assured, it’ll be a lot. Forbes and Trump himself estimate his worth between $3.1 billion and $10 billion currently. The Trump kids are worth anywhere from $600,000 (Tiffany Trump) to $740 million (Ivanka Trump). Many media outlets report the president’s financial empire is declining while he resides the White House, but the family has continued to run their previously established businesses nonetheless.
We also expect the family to secure more book deals post-presidency than they’ve already inked prior to Donald Trump’s political career. With how much he loves crowds, Trump will also probably hop on the speech circuit to earn additional income.
Next: The one president who refused to cash in on fame and influence
15. Harry Truman
Former president Harry Truman and his wife turned down almost every opportunity to exploit his presidential influence for monetary gain. He lived off his $112.56 monthly pension from his service in the Army Reserve and whatever was saved from his salary while in office.
Harry Truman wrote, “I have a very strong feeling about any man who has the honor of being an occupant of the White House in the greatest job in the history of the world, who would exploit that situation in any way, shape or form.”
In fact, the pair rejected so many lucrative six-figure endorsement deals, consulting fees, and other offers that flooded his doors in 1953 that they moved back to Missouri with his mother-in-law post-presidency.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!