While being the President of the United States is a stressful gig, it certainly does come with some pretty sweet benefits (aside from being the most powerful individual on Earth). Interestingly enough, many of these benefits remain valid after vacating the White House.
Here are some financial perks of being US president.
In 2001, the US presidential salary was raised from US$200,000 to US$400,000 (taxable) with a bonus expense allowance of US$50,000 per year (non-taxable). Sitting President Donald Trump famously pledged to donate his salary and accepting nothing more than US$1 per annum, given his reported net worth of US$2.5 billion – which made him the third US president to do so after Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy.
Trump does, however, make money through more subtle means, e.g. hosting staff, Secret Service, and foreign diplomats at his Trump International Hotel in Washington and Trump Tower in New York City; syndication revenue from The Apprentice; and the necessities are pretty much covered (more on that later).
The Former Presidents Act outlines a taxable pension equal to the pay of executive department heads (Executive Level I). In 2016, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton received annual pensions of US$205,700. In 2017, Barack Obama received US$207.800. And come January next year, President Donald Trump is set to receive US$219,200. A former president’s spouse is also eligible to be paid a lifetime annual pension of US$20,000 if they relinquish any other statutory pension.
Being Commander-in-Chief obviously means you need to be in peak form at all times. Which is why a White House doctor and medical staff are constantly accompanying the US president in case you come down with even the slightest of sniffles. No expense is spared when treatment is required, either. According to Business Insider, President Donald Trump’s stint at the presidential suite of Walter Reed Medical after being diagnosed with COVID-19 resulted in a hefty US$650,000 bill.
After five or more years in federal service, a former US president will also receive priority healthcare as well as access to veteran hospitals – if they so choose, that is. 75% is covered by the taxpayer.
Based on the reported numbers, the vacation budget of US presidents doesn’t seem to be capped. But this is yet another financial perk which extends beyond a president’s immediate term. Former presidents also receive a budget to cover travel and business expenses (which doesn’t seem to be capped either).
Transition & re-decorating budget
The incoming US president’s administration transition – that’s from the moment they take office up to six months after – is completely taken care of financially. As per the Centre for Presidential Transition, this covers everything office space, staff compensation, communication services, and so forth. Obama’s 2008 transition apparently totalled to US$9.3 million. Incoming US presidents are also provided with US$100,000 to re-decorate the White House and make it feel more like home.
White House accommodation + hired help
The White House practically needs no introduction. It’s where every US president has been housed and served their country since 1792, offering six floors, 132 rooms, as well as the following:
- Bowling alley
- Billiards room
- Basketball court
- Tennis court
- Putting green
- General fitness centre w/ swimming pool
- 51-seat theatre
- Chocolate store
- White House garden
In addition to the US president and his family, the White House is home to almost 100 permanent residents staffers – maids, housekeepers, butlers, cooks, an Executive Chef, even full-time engineers, plumbers, and florists. Every possible bit of help you’d need to keep the estate in working order.
Camp David country home
Camp David is where every US president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has retreated for some much-needed relaxation. It’s a nice balance between a rustic, country getaway and, well… what you’d expect from the residency of a president. Amenities such as a gym and swimming pool, aircraft hangar, etc.
Blair House guest home
If Trump International Hotel or Trump Tower isn’t to your liking, as the US president’s guest, you’re welcome to stay at Blair House – a 60,000-square foot property comprised of four townhouses and 120 rooms. Many a head of state and foreign dignitary have checked in here.
Air Force One & Marine One
You may already be aware of the custom Boeing 747-200B known as Air Force One – AKA probably the coolest of all the financial perks afforded to the US president – which is essentially a mobile command centre. 4,000 square feet, presidential living quarters, medical operating room, capable of feeding 100 people at a time, and capable of refuelling mid-air so it can stay above ground as long as it needs. CNN reported the hourly cost of Air Force One to be approximately US$200,000 per hour.
Marine One, on the other hand, is the helicopter which shadows the US president’s every move in case it happens to be go-time. Manned by four pilots from the Marine HMX-1 “Nighthawks” squadron every year, it’s armed with anti-missile systems, ballistic armour, and capable of undertaking rescue missions. In terms of scale, it’s definitely smaller than Air Force One, sure. But just as cool all the same in our opinion.
“The Beasts” (armoured car fleet)
On the ground, there’s an entire fleet of armoured Cadillacs designed by the Secret Service known as The Beasts. Bullet-proof. Bomb-proof. Stocked with bags of the president’s blood type in case an emergency transfusion is necessary. Suffice it to say, The Beasts take the worst-case scenarios into consideration and are built to withstand “sustained attacks”. You can find out more here.
Secret Service protection detail
As alluded to in the previous section, the Secret Service constantly protect US presidents during and after their immediate term(s). Spouses, of course, receive the same benefit. As do the president’s children up until the age of 16. The annual budget for the entire Secret Service organisation is just over US$2 billion.
For their service to the country, US presidents and their immediate family are provided with a state funeral with a 7-10 day, three-stage event. Full military honours and so forth. In 2004 when Ronald Reagan passed away, his mahogany casket alone apparently cost US$14,000.
Now that you’ve read all about the financial perks of being the US president, find out how the stock market once again predicted the latest election result here.