While in office, the U.S. president (Joe Biden as of 2021)—receives a salary of $400,000 a year and a $50,000 expense account. Congress added the expense account in 1949. This pays for the president's personal expenses, such as food and dry cleaning.
Title 2 of the U.S. Code also grants a $100,000 non-taxable travel account. Congress has appropriated $19,000 for official presidential receptions and related expenses. Other perks include free transportation in the presidential limousine, Marine One, and Air Force One.
The president receives free furnished housing in the White House. The First Family also receives $100,000 to redecorate the White House to feel more at home. White House upkeep requires permanent residents including maids, cooks, valets, and groundskeepers.
The president receives free health care from the official physician who directs the White House Medical Unit.
Presidents and vice presidents, unlike other federal employees, are expressly permitted to receive any gift, for themselves or on behalf of any family members, as long as the gift is not solicited, coerced, or in exchange for an official act.
- The current salary for the president of the United States is $400,000 per year with an expense account of $50,000.
- Former presidents receive a pension and other benefits when they leave office.
- The benefits former presidents receive are nearly $4 million dollars a year, with more than 40% of that cost in office space.
- While the First Spouse has many responsibilities, the position does not pay a salary.
Presidents Who Did Not Take a Salary
The Constitution requires a president to take a salary. The Founding Fathers wanted to protect even wealthy presidents from misfortune that could tempt them to take bribes. The salary may have also been designed to ensure that a lack of personal wealth would not prohibit a president-elect from taking office.
Four presidents refused a salary, in whole or in part. Instead, they donated all or some of it.
- Donald J. Trump donated his $400,000 annual salary to various federal departments from 2017 to 2020. Trump's net worth is about $2.5 billion.
- John F. Kennedy donated his $100,000 salary to charity. He was the beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar trust fund. He also donated his salary while serving 14 years in Congress.
- Herbert Hoover divided his salary between various charities. He gave some of it to his staff. Hoover's net worth was around $4 million in 1913, worth about $115 million today.
- George Washington initially wanted to forgo his $25,000 salary. He had also foregone a salary while he was our nation's military commander.
Salary for First Spouses
The First Spouse receives no salary.
Some First Spouses give up lucrative careers to enter the White House. For example, Hillary Clinton had been a partner at Rose Law Firm in Arkansas and Michelle Obama was an executive at the University of Chicago hospitals.
Vice Presidents' Salary
For calendar year 2022, the Vice President of the United States—Kamala Harris as of 2021—receives an annual salary of $261,400. The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 dictated that the VP and chief justice of the United States and the speaker of the House all earned the same salary. But in 2022, the chief justice of the United States earns $286,700, and the speaker of the House earns $223,500. The Vice President receives an annual cost-of-living adjustment.
The Vice President's pension is calculated like that of other members of Congress. Ex-Vice Presidents and their families are entitled to Secret Service protection for six months after leaving office, and temporarily any time afterward if warranted.
Presidents' Salaries Throughout History
Congress has only given the president a raise five times. A president cannot get a raise while serving a current term. As a result, most raises are gifts from an outgoing president to future ones.
Here is the president's salary through history, and what it would be worth in today's dollars. Thanks to inflation, all previous presidents received more in buying power than the nation's top executive does today.
- 1789: The president's salary was $25,000. It would have been worth over $800,000 in 2022.
- 1873: President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that authorized his raise for his second term. The $50,000 salary would be worth $1.18 million in 2022.
- 1909: William Taft received a $75,000 salary. It would be worth $2.34 million in 2022.
- 1949: Harry Truman received a $100,000 salary. It would be worth $1.18 million in 2022.
- 1969: Richard Nixon's $200,000 salary would be worth $1.59 million in 2022.
- 2001: George W. Bush received $400,000. That amount paid in 2001 would be worth about $648,123 in 2022.
How Long Do Presidents Get Paid?
The Former Presidents Act of 1958 ensures that U.S. presidents get paid for life. Congress passed the act to provide for President Harry Truman. After he left office, he had many financial problems. The Act provides former presidents with a pension. They also receive funds for travel, office space, support staff, and mailing costs. The pay should equal that of a head of a federal government executive department. In 2021, these Executive Level I employees received $221,400.
Ex-presidents also receive seven months of transition services. It covers the costs of winding down the outgoing administration and briefing the incoming administration.
They receive funds for office space and office staff. The aggregate salary for the staff is capped at $150,000 a year for the first 30 months and $96,000 a year afterward. Widows or widowers of former presidents receive $20,000 a year.
How Long Do Presidents Get Secret Service?
Former presidents and their spouses receive Secret Service protection for life. In 1994, Congress reduced it to 10 years for presidents who entered office after 1997. But Congress reinstated lifetime protection in 2012. Children of former presidents receive Secret Service protection until they are 16 years old. The cost of Secret Service protection is not made public.
The Former Presidents Act provides $1 million a year for security and travel expenses if they didn't receive Secret Service protection. Former first spouses receive $500,000 a year for security and travel purposes if they didn't receive Secret Service protection.
Salaries of Former Presidents
The salaries of ex-presidents are set by the Former Presidents Act. The amount is equivalent to the salary of the head of an executive department. The other costs vary according to each president's needs.
The General Services Administration manages the costs.
The figures stated below are from the FY 2022 budget, the most recent figures available as of April 2022.
Jimmy Carter served from 1977-1981. While in office, he earned $200,000 a year with a $50,000 expense account.
As an ex-president, Carter is set to receive $489,000 in FY 2022. That includes $225,000 in pension benefits, $118,000 for office space, and $122,000 for contracted personnel compensation and benefits.
Bill Clinton served from 1993-2001. He earned $200,000 a year with $50,000 in expenses.
As ex-president Clinton is set to receive about $1.2 million in FY 2022. That includes $219,000 in personnel compensation and benefits and $244,000 in pensions. He has no travel budget but will receive $612,000 for office space.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush served from 2001-2009. He was the first president to earn $400,000 a year.
As ex-president, Bush is set to receive about $1.2 million in FY 2022. That includes $221,000 for staff, and $238,000 in pension benefits. He has no travel budget, but will receive $542,000 for office space, and tens of thousands more for other costs.
Barack Obama served from 2009 to 2017. He earned $400,000 a year while president, with a $50,000 expense account.
As an ex-president, Obama is set to receive about $1.2 million for FY 2022. That includes $251,000 for his pension. For his staff, he is allocated $220,000 in benefits and compensation. Obama receives $603,000 for office space, communications, utilities, and miscellaneous expenses. He has no travel budget for 2022.
Donald Trump's term was from 2017 to 2021. He earned $400,000 a year with a $50,000 expense account. He donated his salary to a different federal department each quarter.
As an ex-president, Trump is set to receive about $900,000 for FY 2022. That includes $225,000 for his pension. He also gets $291,000 for personnel compensation and benefits, $160,000 for office space, $34,000 for communications and miscellaneous expenses, and $159,000 for unspecified services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
At what age is a person eligible to become president of the U.S.?
The president of the U.S. must be at least 35 years old. The youngest person to become president was Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42 when he took office. The oldest person to become president was Joe Biden, who was 78 when he was inaugurated.
Did President Trump donate his salary?
Donald Trump donated his salary to various federal government agencies, including $100,000 to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health “to continue the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis.”
What was President George Washington's salary?
Washington earned $25,000 a year, which would be worth about $806,000 today. That's considerably more than the current presidential salary of $400,000.