During the course of the election, Donald Trump has said he will not accept the president’s salary of roughly $400,000 U.S. annually. In fact, he mentioned in a Twitter Q&A in September 2015 that “As far as the salary is concerned—I won’t take even $1,” noting that it’s not a big deal for him. Then, in his Nov. 13th interview with 60 minutes, the now president-elect once again, talked about the salary he expects to earn in the White House, saying “I will take $1 a year, as required by law.”
But don’t confuse salary with income (which includes money from investments, book royalties, etc.). In fact, it’s lifetime earnings that are most important for presidents who serve in the Oval Office. Ex-presidents (a long list that will soon include Obama) get a pension of about $200,000 per year the moment they leave office and if they pass away, their widow gets $20,000 annually. Former presidents also have several other lucrative income streams, often due to the money they make from giving speeches or writing books. For instance, Bill Clinton earned over $40 million in speaking fees in six years after leaving the presidency.
On top of those earnings, the Federal government also funds office space and staff for life as well as travel, postage and healthcare. Lifetime personal protection and secret service detail for the former president and his family often costs $1 million or more annually.
The bottom line? If president-elect Donald Trump serves a four-year term, he will in fact give up $1.6 million (U.S.) in salary over those years. But that’s really a drop in the bucket compared to the tens if not hundreds of millions he will earn after his term as president is over. Maybe not such a magnanimous gesture after all.
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