Only 44 individuals have served as president of the United States since George Washington was elected the first in 1789. Today, upon retirement, each of these leaders receives a pension from the federal government along with Secret Service protection for himself and his family and a host of other benefits. If you think the President's perks end when leaving office, think again.
Each former president receives the same salary as a current member of the Presidential Cabinet. For 2017, the amount was $207,800 per year. This number does not take into account the extras the former leader is entitled to including payroll for office staff and free postage for life. The former president is granted a host of benefits that often add up to more than the pension payment itself. For example, ex-presidents are allowed office space and communications systems paid for by taxpayers. Fiscal year 2018 budget requests for the former presidents include $536,000 for office space for former President Barack Obama and $68,000 for travel for George H.W. Bush.
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Should the former president be survived by a spouse, the spouse is granted a pension of $20,000 for life, as well as a free postage benefit. On top of all these pension payments and benefits come the expenses involved with the personal protection of each former president and his family. In total the amount spent on a former president can reach into the millions of dollars per year. In 2015, former president Jimmy Carter accounted for over $200,000 in additional costs while expenses for George W. Bush reached $800,000. Budget requests for former President Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama in 2018 exceed $1 million each, including pension costs.
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In addition to earning a pension, the former president is free to publish memoirs, join corporate boards and give speeches for payment to audiences around the world. The potential earnings for such activities is nearly without limit. Clinton went on to earn over $65 million in speaking fees alone after his presidency and another $15 million for his published memoirs.
Ex-presidents did not earn pensions until 1958 when Congress put in place the Former Presidents Act, providing the benefits today's leaders now receive. Before this Act was passed, ex-presidents were given nothing after leaving office, and the results were evident. For example, Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library to create the basis for the Library of Congress and James Monroe was destitute when he died.
- Congressional Research Office: CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits
- Chicago Tribune: Why Should We Pay Our Ex-Presidents?
- Fox News: Government Spent Nearly $3.7M on Ex-Presidents in 2012 High Toe Pointed Womens Leather Knee 5 5 Nicolah Size Fashion West Nine Cognac xSXqA0I
- CNN Money: Here's How Much Obama's Pension Is Worth
- Congressional Research Service: Allowances and Office Staff for Former Presidents, FY2016-FY2018 Appropriations