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.
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 thehill.com. 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.)
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