Imagine making $100,000 to work for an hour, or better yet, for just 15 minutes. Life would be pretty good. Now imagine that you made $50,000 to just do nothing - all you have to do is show up somewhere, get your picture taken, have fun and take home a fat check at the end of the night. Both of these seem like pretty good options for career choices, but unfortunately they're just not available to everyone.

In Pictures: Celebrities With Big Dreams That Paid Off

To get big money for making speeches, you usually need to have some major accomplishment, and have a track record that would exalt you as someone from whom others can learn. Or you can be a great speaker, hugely entertaining and/or a well-known, well-liked figure. On the other hand, some people make the big bucks for no real reason except that they have inexplicably become famous. We'll take a look at some of the most expensive speaking fees and celebrity "appearance" fees to find out what it takes to make millions for a minimal amount of work.

Post-Presidential Cash-In
Many former U.S. presidents have taken their experience and public profile and used it to generate some cash after leaving office. From Reagan to George W. Bush, presidents have made piles of money through huge speaking fees. After retirement, Reagan regularly traveled the country, making around $50,000 per speech, at colleges and business dinners, and he famously made $2 million for giving two speeches in Japan. (There are a number of stars who also possess top-grade business savvy. Find out which celebs are a double threat in Celebrity CEOs.)

Bill Clinton regularly takes in between $100,000 and $350,000 for his speaking engagements - and it was reported by the Washington Post that right after leaving the White House, between 2001 and 2005, Clinton made $31 million in speaking fees. The most recent former president, George W. Bush, is faring almost as well, but is lacking in volume - possibly due to the low rating with which he left the White House. He reportedly charges $150,000 per speech.

Close to the Prez
You don't even have to serve as president, or even as vice-president, to charge these humongous speaking fees. Sometimes you just have to be near the action. Condoleezza Rice charges just as much as Bush for her speeches, according to Sarah Palin has made headlines recently for her exorbitant fees that she charges for her tea party appearances - from $100,000-$150,000. Not bad for someone who has only ever served as the governor of one of the U.S.'s least populated state. Sometimes it's not about what the person has done, it's about their star power; this is definitely the case with Bush's wife Laura who charges $75,000 per speech.

Perhaps the most confounding of these politico and faux-politico speech fees is that of Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol. Bristol Palin is most famous for being the pregnant teen daughter of a VP hopeful who preached abstinence, and though her mother is no longer involved in politics, Bristol Palin is attempting to spin her situation into a career. The younger Palin is reportedly asking for $15,000-$30,000 to speak at conferences and fundraisers, abstinence and "pro-life" programs. At 19, with very specific experience, it goes without saying that a name can cost a lot more than the substance of the speech. (Bad behavior is all too common in the workplace, but it can't match the drama of these celebrities' stunts. Learn more in Stars Behaving Badly: Disastrous Celebrity Hirings.)

Top CEOs and Celebrities
With fame-focused culture, you can understand why someone may want to spend the money to have a well-known person speak at a function - especially when that person is known to have great insight or be a great entertainer.

Having a superstar CEO like Jack Welch or Richard Branson speak at a business luncheon may be worth the $100,000+ price tag (according to All American Talent & Celebrity Network) - they may impart some business knowledge that you can't get anywhere else. And some may find it worthwhile to pay to have a star speaking at their event; public figures like Anderson Cooper, Alex Rodriguez, Kim Catrall and Serena Williams all charge $50,000+ for their speaking engagements. (There's a lot that the average person can learn from famous mistakes. Don't miss Celebrity Financial Failures.)

Paid to Show Up
Then there are the others - those with not a whole lot to say, but the star power that means they can charge big money to just appear at an event; they don't even have to impart any "wisdom". This is the realm of famous-because-they're-famous people, like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, and reality stars like the cast of "Jersey Shore". This type of public figure charges just to be seen at an event, like club openings, birthday parties, car shows, etc.

The thinking is that they add the air of celebrity to the event, or make the party seem exclusive or prestigious so that the promoters/owners are able to jack up the price or so that the image of the brand sponsoring the party is associated with the celebrity. It's been reported that these celebrities can make anywhere from a few thousand per appearance (characters from "Jersey Shore") to $50,000 (Kim Kardashian).

The Bottom Line
It seems some people have all the luck. It'd be nice to be 25 and receive thousands to go out and party. However, sometimes you have to have dedicated your whole life to politics, sports, business or entertainment in order to charge the astronomical fees that go along with speaking engagements. Just remember: you get what you pay for. (Despite the recession, these celebrities are still raking in the cash. Learn from them and you might see your income on the rise. Check out Top Tips For Earning A Celebrity Paycheck.)

Get a rundown of the latest financial news in this week's Water Cooler Finance: Buffett Buzz, Toxic CDOs And Facebook Privacy.

Related Articles
  1. Professionals

    4 Ways Companies Can Relieve Workplace Stress

    Workplace stress can cost companies tons of money in lost productivity and absenteeism. Some of that is out of their control, but often they are the cause.
  2. Retirement

    Why Some Celebs Say 'No Inheritance for My Kids'

    To some of the super rich, inherited wealth is not the ultimate gift, it's a burden. Here's how their children—as well as charities—stand to benefit.
  3. Entrepreneurship

    Top 3 Most Successful African Entrepreneurs

    Discover the educational backgrounds and entrepreneurial ventures of some of the most successful and well-known African entrepreneurs.
  4. Investing

    Kevin O'Leary Biography

    Kevin O'Leary is a television personality, businessman and investor from Canada. A brash public personality with a net worth of roughly $300 million, he is considered to be the Canada’s answer ...
  5. Entrepreneurship

    7 Top-Earning Child Stars

    These seven top-earning child stars earned millions through different parts of the entertainment industry, including television, film and music.
  6. Entrepreneurship

    8 Top-Earning Country Singers

    These eight country singers have built careers singing about men and women who’ve done them wrong, and they’ve shared their heartache to the tune of millions of dollars.
  7. Entrepreneurship

    Top 3 Most Successful French Entrepreneurs

    Learn about some of the most famous and successful entrepreneurs who either hail from France or have chosen to relocate to France as their home.
  8. Entrepreneurship

    Top 6 Most Successful European Entrepreneurs

    Understand what makes European entrepreneurs successful. Learn about six European entrepreneurs who have found great success in terms of their net worth.
  9. Insurance

    Warren Buffett: The Road To Riches

    Find out how he went from selling soft drinks to buying up companies and making billions of dollars.
  10. Entrepreneurship

    Top 3 Most Successful Australian Entrepreneurs

    Learn interesting biographical information about some of the most famous and successful entrepreneurs who are originally from Australia.
  1. How are Rupert Murdoch's holdings distributed?

    Rupert Murdoch owns a controlling share of News Corporation and over 750 different businesses. Some of the major brands he ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How did Bernard Baruch attain his wealth?

    Bernard Baruch obtained his fortune by investing in profitable stocks on Wall Street. Baruch is known as a legendary stock ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why was Bernard Baruch known as the "Park Bench Statesman?"

    As someone who preferred to conduct his meetings in informal settings and was led by persuasion rather than pressure, Bernard ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How did Nathan Rothschild become a stock exchange speculator?

    Market maker Nathan Rothschild learned much of his financial savvy from his father, who dealt in coins and paper money. He ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What advice does Howard Schultz offer would-be business moguls?

    Starbucks CEO, billionaire and former sports tycoon Howard Schultz has several pieces of advice for would-be moguls and, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Why did Howard Schultz leave Starbucks, only to return eight years later?

    Howard Schultz left Starbucks in 2000 due to exhaustion from growing Starbucks from a regional coffee chain to a global company ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  2. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  3. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  4. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  5. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  6. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!