Poorest U.S. Presidents
As the leader of the free world, it might be assumed that the President of the United States would have no problems with money. However, there are several commander-in-chiefs that were low on funds before and/or after their presidencies. Here are some of the poorest heads of state.
Harry S. Truman
The 33rd president spent most of his life in financial turmoil. He had a modest upbringing, and years of bad investments, including a men's clothing store and a mining and oil company, kept him in debt. However, he never filed for bankruptcy. After his presidency, Truman and his wife Bess moved into his mother-in-law's home in Independence, Mo. Truman was one of the first presidents to receive a pension, a sum of $25,000 annually, which helped to keep him afloat. He and his wife were also the first recipients of Medicare after it was signed into law.
Ulysses S. Grant
The 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, died broke. He lost $100,000 after being defrauded by his son's business partner, Ferdinand Ward. The sizable loss forced Grant into bankruptcy. Grant also had a reputation for spending more money than he had. He and his wife lived the high life. They indulged in luxury travel and fine dining, despite the fact that they could not afford an extravagant lifestyle. It wasn't until after his death that Grant was able to give his family some financial security. His posthumous civil war memoirs sold for nearly half a million dollars.
William Henry Harrison
Bad luck might be the reason for the bulk of William Henry Harrison's money problems. The ninth president of the U.S. fell on hard times after inclement weather destroyed his farm's crops while he was serving as the Ambassador to Colombia. Despite his lack of supply, creditors were still demanding payment and Harrison struggled to meet his financial obligations. Upon his death, Harrison had nothing, and Congress set up a special $25,000 pension for his widow.
One of the better known presidents, Thomas Jefferson appeared to lead a comfortable life. He was the son of wealthy parents. In fact, for much of his life he was one of the wealthiest presidents of all time. As an adult he owned a 5,000 acre plantation in Virginia called Monticello and had about 200 slaves. The third president's estimated net worth was $212 million. Yet, the author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia was saddled with significant debt in his later years, and he was never able to get out of the hole. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to auction off his land to pay off creditors. He left no inheritance to his surviving daughter, and she was forced to live off of charity.
James A. Garfield
The 20th president was born into poverty. He grew up in a log cabin in Ohio with four siblings. He worked various odd jobs from carpenter to janitor to get himself through college. Despite passing the Ohio bar exams, Garfield dedicated much of his life to public service and never made much money. He died tragically in 1881 as a result of an assassination. Garfield was penniless at the end of his life.
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