Cynics often lament that politicians—specifically presidents—serve in office because they see a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Whether or not that’s true, Jimmy Carter is an anomaly. It’s widely known that our 39th president came from humble roots. But now, at age 96, he’s still the same guy—not poor by any means, but very modest relative to fellow former leaders. Find out Jimmy Carter’s net worth and how it compares to other living presidents.
Jimmy Carter Owned A Peanut Farm Before Becoming President
Reagan was a Hollywood actor. Trump is a reality show personality. It’s no longer a shock for show biz vets to cross over into politics, but Jimmy Carter is from the old school. The rural Georgian, whose family roots in America date back to the 1630s, never had a glamorous life. Before becoming president, Carter served as a naval officer for seven years. He then took over his family’s peanut farm, but the career transition was initially stymied by Mother Nature.
In 1954, a drought in Georgia took a toll on the season’s harvest. According to a biography written by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, net profits for the farm’s crop totaled $187. Carter and his family endured very lean times—they stayed afloat on bank loans and even spent a year living in public housing.
Thankfully the farm was turning a profit by 1959. This allowed Carter more freedom to become involved in his community. He served on the board of a local hospital and library; he also became a church deacon and Sunday school teacher.
In 1962, Carter—then the chairman for the Sumter County Board of Education—ran for a seat in the Georgia State Senate, kicking off his career in politics.
When Carter became president in 1977, he handed over control of the family business to a longtime associate in the form of a trust. A document outlining the terms read:
“[Carter] wants the trustee to arrange the assets of the trust so that no one should reasonably assert that [his] actions as President were motivated by a desire to foster his own personal monetary gain or profit.”
Carter made good on this assurance. In 1979, when he revealed personal financial documents, it appeared that his net worth had actually declined from the time he took office.
He Turns 97 This Year
On October 1, Jimmy Carter will turn 97. But he already broke the record as our longest-living president back in 2019. He honored the milestone in his signature low-key way: by not celebrating at all. His spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said no special events were planned, adding, “We at The Carter Center sure are rooting for him and grateful for his long life of service that has benefited millions of the world’s poorest people.”
Carter’s achievement is even more astounding when you consider his health history. In 2015, he revealed he had melanoma and that cancer had spread to his brain and liver. He underwent treatment, and by year’s end, he was in remission.
In a memoir published on his 90th birthday, Carter said that his presidency was not necessarily the most treasured chapter of his long life.
“I spent four of my ninety years in the White House, and they were, of course, the pinnacle of my political life,” he wrote. “Those years, though, do not dominate my chain of memories… Teaching, writing, and helping The Carter Center evolve … seem to constitute the high points in my life.”
What Is Jimmy Carter’s Net Worth In 2021?
Jimmy Carter has an estimated net worth of $10 million.
During his presidency, his salary was $200,000 per year—the standard rate for the position at the time. His current pension provides $207,800 per year, and he’s given $150,000 annually to pay for Secret Service protection.
Despite being in a comfortable financial position, Carter lives frugally. He still lives in a two-bedroom ranch in Georgia that he built himself in 1961; the property was assessed at $167,000 in 2018.
A 2011 profile in Rolling Stone revealed that he shops for clothes at his local Dollar General Store. He often flies commercial, and his idea of a good time is to drink bargain-priced wine from plastic Solo cups. “Tight as bark on a tree” is how his old friend Dot Padgett described him.
Why Jimmy Carter’s Net Worth Is Less Than Other Former Presidents
Carter is actually one of the first presidents to see a generous profit in his post-presidency days. But his fortune is still peanuts (no pun intended) compared to his successors.
According to research from American University, when George H.W. Bush first took office, he was worth $4 million. By 2017, the figure jumped to $23 million. Meanwhile, his son, George W. Bush, saw his wealth spike from $20 to $35 million.
Windfalls aren’t limited to one party. Bill Clinton, whose net worth is predicted to be $120 million, commanded a $15 million advance for the rights to his memoir. In 2012 alone, he made $17 million from delivering 73 speeches.
Barack Obama, who never earned more than $30k per year between 1991 and 2004, is now worth an estimated $70 million. He and his wife Michelle earned a $60 million advance for combined rights to their autobiographies. He also rakes in a generous income from speeches, his pension, and a Netflix production deal.
Carter stands out because he was actually at a financial disadvantage when he first exited the White House. Presidential historian James Thurber described him as “broke” following his presidency. According to the Washington Post, his peanut business was $1 million in debt.
Writing books was a clear path for him to earn money, and since his presidency, he’s written over 30. But unlike his successors, Carter opted out of serving on corporate boards or giving paid speeches because he didn’t want to “capitalize financially on being in the White House.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter told the Washington Post. “It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”
We salute Carter for staying true to his values and extolling the virtue of simplicity.