Here's How Much Money The President Of The United States Really Makes

It might sound strange to think the leader of the free world earns a salary every year like the rest of us, but that's exactly how it works. While quantifying how much one of the biggest jobs in the world should earn can feel impossible, Congress has been doing it since the country's formation (it's even laid out in the U.S. Constitution). As money has changed over time, just how much a president has earned has also changed. For instance, the very first presidential salary (in 1789) was $25,000 a year. While that might not sound like much, when you factor in inflation and compare it to today's added pension and expense account perks, it would be equivalent to about a $300,000 salary today.

Since the first United States president, Congress has approved presidential pay increases a total of five different times, mostly to keep up with inflation and the way money has changed in the country throughout the years. Yet, in addition to presidential salary increases, the introduction of additional perks, allowances, and expenses have inflated presidential pay even further. This is especially true when you factor in the lifetime benefits all former U.S. presidents receive. From pensions to travel reimbursement to health care, a U.S. president can stand to earn a considerable amount of taxpayer money over the course of their lifetime. Let's dive into how and just how much a president is paid, both as a sitting federal employee and as a former president.

The official salary of the president

The official salary for the president of the United States, beginning with President Biden's term in 2020, is $400,000 a year in addition to an expense allowance of $50,000 (intended for any potential expenses related to the president's official duties) and $19,000 for entertainment, along with access to a $100,000 nontaxable travel account. The president is paid this salary every month, and any unused portion of their expense allowance reverts back to the Treasury. Further, part of a president's official compensation also includes the ability to use the furniture and items housed within the White House, in addition to getting to live there as the official Executive Residence. It's worth noting that Congress approved this salary in 2001 and the presidential office hasn't received a salary increase since then.

According to the U.S. Constitution, a president's pay is locked in at whatever amount it was at the beginning of their term. The Founding Fathers included this rule as a way to ensure the president of the United States could not be subject to congressional influence or control. As Alexander Hamilton put it, "[Congress] can neither weaken his fortitude by operating on his necessities, nor corrupt his integrity by appealing to his avarice." This is yet another way that the Founding Fathers attempted to ensure a separation of power between the branches of the U.S. government. This rule, known as the Emoluments Clause, also bars the country's president from receiving any additional pay from any other government office during their term outside of their provided salary.

The retirement income of former US presidents

Former U.S. presidents continue to enjoy federal pay even after they leave office. Specifically, the Former Presidents Act of 1958 was key in establishing benefits for ex-presidents. One of the biggest compensation elements of this act is that former presidents are entitled to an annual pension equal to the pay for a cabinet secretary (or an executive level 1) which, as of January 2023, was $235,600. In addition to this pension pay, the Former Presidents Act also provides office space and allowances for staff salaries. This specific perk begins six months after a president has left office and is provided by the General Services Administration as a way for a former president to set up and keep an official office somewhere in the U.S.

Former presidents also receive travel expenses for themselves and two staff members. They can be reimbursed for travel expenses up to $1 million for the year, while their spouses separately receive $500,000 annually to cover expenses related to their security and official travel. However, widows of former presidents are only eligible for a $20,000 yearly pension. Ex-presidents are also eligible for lifetime Secret Service protection; however, the exact cost and financial outlay of this specific perk is deemed classified. It's also worth mentioning health benefits are another perk for former presidents, with health annuities for presidents who enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program for at least five years. This means a president must either serve two terms or hold a different federal position at some point to be eligible.