Earlier this year The Atlantic estimated the net worth in today’s dollars of all 44 U.S. presidents that have served to date. The rich ones and the poor ones aren’t always the ones you might have guessed:
The net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today’s dollars. Several presidents went bankrupt.
The fortunes of American presidents are tied to the economy at the times when they lived. For the first 75 years after Washington’s election, presidents generally made money on land, crops, and commodity speculation. A president who owned hundreds or thousands of acres could lose most or all of his property after a few years of poor crop yields. Wealthy Americans occasionally lost all of their money through land speculation — leveraging the value of one piece of land to buy additional property. Since there was no reliable national banking system and almost no liquidity in the value of private companies, land was the asset likely to provide the greatest yield, if the property yielded enough to support the costs of operating the farm or plantation. …
One of the most important conclusions of this analysis is that the presidency has little to do with wealth. Several U.S. presidents brought huge net worths to the job. Many lost most of their fortunes after leaving office. Some never had any significant money at all.
[View a slideshow with details of the wealth of the presidents at The Atlantic]