Being President of the United States (POTUS) is a job like no other on the planet — a truly relentless 24×7 job; as King Henry IV, in the Shakespeare’s play of the same name, declares, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” The title of POTUS brings enormous responsibility, constant worry, and intense stress. And its not like you can ease into the job: you go from 0 to 150 MPH in just about one minute — the time it takes to complete the oath of office. A job this difficult and demanding should have some pretty awesome benefits, right? So what are some of the perks of being President of the United States?
The President of the U.S. earns $400,000 per year, paid monthly, as well as an extra expense allowance of $50,000 per year. On the other hand, the hardworking First Lady gets paid zero. When the President leaves office, he will earn $200,000 per year for life.
One of the best perks, outside of living in the most famous house in the world, is free transportation via the heavily armored limousine, Cadillac One (nicknamed “The Beast”), Air Force One, and Marine One. The President will never have to drive and endure annoying traffic jams — mostly, because he will be creating them! Although a President may keep his driver’s license, he is banned from ever driving a car on a public road. (The Secret Service will allow a President to drive on private property or to drive a golf cart on a golf course. After serving office, a President could drive again, but the Secret Service highly discourages it.)
While living in the White House, POTUS is served by 96 full-time and 250 part-time staff members, including a Chief Usher, Physician, Social Secretary, Chief Calligrapher, Chef, and Pastry Chef.
The President is entitled to a number of freebies, including: all meals, pens, personalized stationery, high-speed internet and cable channels, valet, unlimited periodicals and newspaper subscriptions, and first-run movies (courtesy of the MPAA).
Every President gets to design their own Oval Office Rug with the help of White House staff. The rug, made of 100% wool, is manufactured by a private company.
Although POTUS and his family live rent-free in the White House, they must pay for toiletries and services like dry cleaning, hair cuts, etc. Valet and housekeeping services, however, are paid by the taxpayers. Incidentally, incoming Presidents must hire private movers to get all his and his family’s belongings to the White House. Once there, the White House staff will move all items into the third floor of the White House (in White House refers to this as the second floor), since only staff is permitted inside. The White House staff has only five hours to make the move, placing all clothes and items in the residence, making small repairs (including paint touch-ups), and stocking the pantries. If POTUS wants to make any changes in decorations or furniture, since he is living in what is essentially a museum, all changes must be discussed and cleared with the Director of the National Park Service. The acquisition of new furniture must be paid with private donations.
Presidents are allowed to keep pets in the White House. The staff will take responsibility for the care of a pet, including feeding, grooming, and walking.
The President is assigned a special zip code for mail that is delivered directly to the White House. All other mail is reviewed by staff. The President’s secretary will place all outgoing calls; all incoming calls are screened by staff. All calls are logged in, but not recorded. Staff will listen in during some critical diplomatic calls, and internal informal transcripts are produced in real time.
If POTUS is hungry, he simply contacts his valet or the White House kitchen and the meal will be delivered to a room or the First Family dining room.
For exercise or entertainment. POTUS can avail himself to many of the White House’s amenities: a basketball court, tennis court, putting green, swimming pool, jogging track, billiard room, bowling alley, theatre, and library containing more than 2,700 books.
After leaving office, POTUS earns an annual pension for life ($200,000), health care, Secret Service protection, a paid official office, and paid official travel. However, we are saving the best perk for last: earning a boatload of money after leaving office — doing all the things that former presidents do: making speeches and writing books. So how much can a former president earn? Are you sitting down? According to research from the Kogod School of Business at American University (Washington, D.C.), former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama are estimated to earn more than $242.5 million over the next 15 years. Included in that staggering sum are speeches (at least $200,000 per speech), $40 million in book fees, topped with a very munificent $200,000-per-year pension. How’s that for a fitting retirement?
Let’s take a closer look at two recent former presidents. In 1993 when he took office, Bill Clinton had a net worth of about $1.2 million. Fifteen years after leaving office, Clinton’s net worth jumped to an astonishing $75 million (an increase of 6,250%) thanks to lucrative book deals and lots of paid speeches. According to CNN, Bill and Hilary Clinton gave 729 speeches over 15 years, grossing more than $153 million! The next president, George W. Bush, took office in 2001, with a net worth of about $20 million; seven years after leaving office, his net worth increased to over $35 million (175%).
In the final analysis, belonging to the most exclusive club — former president of the U.S. — indeed, has its privileges.
For further reading: How to be President by Stephen Williams (2004)