How Obama, Biden and Other Elected Officials Have Made Millions by Being in Office

Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Shutterstock / Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Shutterstock / Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

The current salary for the president of the United States is $400,000, while the vice president earns an annual salary of $230,700.

Although that’s not chump change, some of the politicians who have held these esteemed positions have been able to parlay their time in the White House into millions through book deals, paid appearances and consulting gigs.

Here’s how President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and other politicians have used their time in office to boost their net worths.

Gerald Ford

  • Net Worth (Deceased): $7 million

Gerald Ford became president upon the resignation of Richard Nison and took the oath of office on Aug. 9, 1974. Though he won the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, he lost the election to Jimmy Carter.

Even though he only served as president for less than three years, Ford was able to turn his time in the White House into millions. He entered the White House with a $1.4 million net worth and amassed an additional $5.6 million before he died, according to a report by American University. He was the first former president to monetize his time in the office, according to The Washington Post.

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A Pioneer of Paid Speeches

Before Ford, presidents lived simple lives and were not expected to make outside income aside from book royalties. Ford changed all that by getting paid to make speeches, appearing at conventions, meetings and even the opening of a shopping center, The Washington Post reported.

Corporate Board Memberships

Ford accepted memberships on corporate boards of companies like 20th Century Fox and American Express after leaving office in 1977, according to The New York Times.

Joe Biden

  • Net Worth: $8 million, according to Forbes

Joe Biden began his political career when he was elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29, making him one of the youngest candidates ever elected senator. He later served as Delaware’s attorney general and served as vice president with former President Obama from 2009 to 2017. He defeated incumbent President Donald Trump in the 2020 election to become the 46th president of the United States.

Keep reading to find out more about how he’s made his millions.

After the Vice Presidency

According to Forbes, Biden’s net worth after eight years as vice president stood at $2.5 million, with the majority of that tied to his Delaware home and his federal pension.

In the four years that passed until he became president, Biden earned $17.3 million, per Forbes. In the first year out of office, Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, earned $11.1 million. In subsequent years, the Bidens brought in $4.6 million, $1 million and, finally, $630,000 in 2020. Much of the income came from what The New York Times said was an $8 million deal for three books from the Bidens.

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Millions in Speaking Fees

In the 23 months following the end of his turn as vice president, Biden earned $2.4 million in speaking fees stemming from 19 separate engagements, Forbes reported. That amounts to an average fee of $126,000 per speech, though The New York Times reported he was paid as much as $234,820 for one appearance.

That is in addition to the $1.8 million Forbes reported he took in from book tour events.

Ivy League Professor Income

In 2017, Biden was named the Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, leading the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. His turn as a professor at the Ivy League school earned him a $775,000 paycheck, Forbes reported.

Ronald Reagan

  • Net Worth (Deceased): $13 million

Originally an actor, Ronald Reagan successfully made the transition to politics as the governor of California and later the 40th president of the U.S. He served two terms, from 1981 to 1989.

Reagan already was well-off when he entered the White House, with a net worth of $10.6 million before starting his first term, according to a report by American University.

See how he grew his income outside of the office.

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Million-Dollar Speeches

In 1989, Ronald Reagan served as the main attraction at a Tokyo symposium sponsored by the Japanese media conglomerate Fujisankei Communications Group. His fee for a pair of speeches reportedly totaled $2 million, according to The New York Times.

Multimillion-Dollar Books

Reagan signed a reported $5 million deal in 1989 to write two books for Simon & Schuster, according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition to those two books — “An American Life” and “Speaking My Mind” — he also penned “The Reagan Diaries” and “The Notes: Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom,” which were published by HarperCollins.

George H.W. Bush

  • Net Worth (Deceased): $25 million

George H.W. Bush served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993. He previously served as vice president with Ronald Reagan and held the roles of director of the CIA, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee and U.S. envoy to China. He also represented Texas in the House of Representatives, elected to the first of two terms in 1966. Bush died in November 2018.

Here are some ways he made big money thanks to his time in office.

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Lucrative Speaking Engagements

Toward the end of his own presidency, George W. Bush told Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” that his father, George H.W. Bush, commanded more than $50,000 or $75,000 per speech.

Significant Book Royalties

Bush authored and co-authored a number of books over the years, including “A World Transformed,” and “All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings.” Although the exact amount he earned from his book deals hasn’t been released, Money reported that he received “significant royalties.”

George W. Bush

  • Net Worth: $50 million

George W. Bush followed in his father’s political footsteps, serving two terms as president from 2001 to 2009. He was president during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an event that challenged the nation and transformed Bush into a wartime president.

Bush has more than doubled his fortune since leaving the White House — he entered it with a $20 million net worth, according to a report by American University. In his retirement in Texas, he also has taken up painting.

Here’s how he grew that net worth.

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Big Money From Speeches

In 2015, Politico found that Bush was paid anywhere between $100,000 and $175,000 per speech, earning him tens of millions of dollars in just a few years after leaving political office.

Millions From Book Deals

Bush has authored four books: “Decision Points” (2010), “41: A Portrait of My Father” (2014) and two art books, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors” (2017) and “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” (2021). His deal for his first book alone was valued at $7 million, according to the Daily Beast.

Barack Obama

  • Net Worth: $70 million

Barack Obama was elected the 44th U.S. president and served two terms beginning in 2009. He previously served in the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate.

Obama entered the White House with a $1.3 million net worth, and a 2017 report by American University speculated that he could earn as much as $242.5 million in post-White House income.

However much Obama has made, it is enough that he and former first lady Michelle Obama bought an $11.75 million estate on nearly 30 acres on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in 2019, the local Vineyard Gazette reported.

Here’s how he’s making millions.

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Six-Figure Fees for Giving Speeches

Obama is officially a part of the elite club of former presidents who demand dizzyingly high speaking fees. He agreed to give a speech at a conference run by Wall Street trading and investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald in September 2017 for a whopping $400,000, CNBC reported. The fee is equivalent to the annual salary paid to the commander-in-chief.

Multimillion-Dollar Book Deals

A little more than a month out of office, news broke that the Obamas had signed a book deal with Penguin Random House that likely stretched well into eight figures, The New York Times reported.

That’s money on top of what he already earned from his previous books. Forbes estimates that he earned $6.8 million from “Dreams From My Father” and $8.8 million from “Audacity of Hope” and “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” between 2005 and 2016.

Netflix Deal

In 2018, the Obamas signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix to produce series and movies for the streaming service, Variety reported. It’s unknown how much the Obamas made from the deal, but Netflix is known to pay well. The streaming giant previously struck a deal with Shonda Rhimes valued at $100 million and a deal with Ryan Murphy valued at as much as $300 million. More recently, a 2020 agreement with Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle was estimated at as much as $150 million, Deadline reported.

Bill Clinton

  • Net Worth: $120 million

Bill Clinton took office at the end of the Cold War, serving as the 42nd president of the U.S. from 1993 to 2001. He was the first baby-boomer generation president.

According to a report by American University, Clinton has done the most to monetize his post-political career. When he took office in 1993, his net worth was just $1.2 million. In 1999, The New York Times reported that Bill and Hillary Clinton had more than $5 million in legal bills and needed an associate to personally secure the loan on the $1.7 million home in New York they would move to after leaving the White House.

They undoubtedly paid off the loan long ago. Forbes reported in 2016 that the Clintons made $240 million in the 15 years since his presidency ended.

Find out what he did to make all that money.

Millions From Public Speaking

According to CNN, Clinton — along with his wife, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee — earned an average of $210,795 per speech from the time they exited the White House in 2001 until May 2015. Combined, they made 729 speeches in that span, which equals a payday of more than $153 million.

A Massive Book Advance

Clinton received a $15 million advance for his 2004 autobiography, “My Life,” The New York Times reported. In total, he earned $29.6 million from his autobiography and another book, “Giving.”

Advising and Consulting Work

Post-presidency, Clinton formed a partnership with billionaire investor Ronald Burkle. The New York Times reported that Clinton earned somewhere between $12.6 million and $15.3 million between 2002 and 2007 as an advisor for Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies.

He also has worked as a consultant for the consumer database company InfoUSA, which paid him at least $3.3 million over the years.

Al Gore

  • Net Worth: $300 million

Al Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and later became a member of the U.S. Senate. He was inaugurated as the 45th vice president of the United States in 1993 and served eight years alongside Bill Clinton. Currently, Gore is the chairman of Generation Investment Management, which he co-founded; the founder and chairman of the nonprofit The Climate Reality Project, which is fighting the climate crisis, and a member of the board of directors of Apple Inc.

Read on to find out how he made much of his money.

Green Investments Earn Him Serious Green

Gore co-founded the London-based investment firm Generation Investment Management to invest money in businesses that were environmentally responsible. The firm raised profits of almost $218 million between 2008 and 2011, which was split between 26 partners, Forbes reported. If it were an even split, Gore would have made more than $8 million during those years.

Cashing In on a Cable Network

In 2013, Gore and his business partner, Joel Wyatt, sold their cable network Current TV to Al Jazeera. Gore made $70 million off the deal, Forbes reported. Gore previously had been paying himself $1.2 million a year in salary and bonuses as an owner of the network.

Numerous Book Deals

Although it hasn’t been reported how much he’s earned from his book deals, Gore certainly has added to his net worth with his books’ successes. He has written three New York Times bestsellers — “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The Assault on Reason” and “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” — among his books.

Gore has also been the subject of two documentary movies and was a co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.

Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting for this article.

Net worths are sourced from CelebrityNetWorth unless otherwise noted. Net worths are accurate as of May 2, 2023.

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