What’s most interesting – and not clearly shown by the above list – is how our presidents’ net worth has changed over the years.
As 24/7 Wall St points out:
The fortunes of America’s presidents are often tied to the economy of their time. As the focus of the economy has changed, so has the way the presidents made their money.
It is not surprising then to find that the first few presidents — from Washington’s election to about 75 years later — were large landowners. They generally made money from land, crops, and commodity speculation. This left them also highly vulnerable to poor crop yields, and they could lose most or all of their properties because of a few bad years.
By 1850, beginning with Millard Fillmore, most presidents were lawyers who spent years in public service. They rarely amassed large fortunes, and their incomes were constituted almost entirely of their salaries. These American presidents were distinctly middle class, and they often retired without the means to support themselves in any way close to the presidential lifestyle.
At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, there was another significant change in the economy. Large, professionally organized corporations in the oil, mining, financial, and railroad sectors allowed individuals to amass large fortunes.
John F. Kennedy was wealthy because of the financial empire built by Joseph Kennedy. Herbert Hoover made millions of dollars as the owner of mining companies. Since the early 20th century, the fortunes of many presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and both George W. and George H.W. Bush were driven by inherited wealth (the Bush family net worth is estimated to be $60 million).
Which President was the Best Investor?
I was originally going to write about the investing performance of some of our presidents, but with 7 of the top 10 richest presidents gaining their fortunes through inheritance, it turns out that most of our presidents’ parents were much better investors and businessmen than the presidents themselves were.
However, if I had to vote to determine which president was the best investor, I think it would probably come down to Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover.
Although the family of Andrew Jackson’s wife was fairly wealthy, Jackson was also a successful planter, merchant, and investor in his own right (despite the facts that (a) he campaigned as a protector of the common man against wealthy bankers and (b) he killed the Second Bank of the United States in 1833). Andrew Jackson actually was one of the three original investors who founded Memphis, Tennessee in 1819. Even Warren Buffett can’t claim he ever founded a city.
Herbert Hoover’s investing and business career is actually very impressive. An orphan who was raised by Quakers, Herbert Hoover started his career as a mining engineer for a company in Australia. Hoover eventually founded several mining companies and winded up amassing a fortune as a mining executive, investor, and financier.
A New Era?
With the 2016 U.S. Presidential race now in full swing, you have to wonder – will the next president of the United States also top the list of richest presidents? If Donald Trump ends up getting elected, not only would he be by far the richest president ever with a net worth of $4 billion (or $10 billion if you ask Trump) – he would also probably top the list as the president who was the best investor.
What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments box below this article.