What does the president make in retirement?

Becoming the president of the United States comes with numerous perks that continue even after leaving office. Find out what the president makes in retirement.

3 min read

Serving as the President of the United States is not your typical job, and this position comes with a lot of responsibility. Only 46 people have been elected to the office of the President of the United States since 1789. Upon retirement, each of these presidents receives a pension and other perks like Secret Service Protection and reimbursement of official travel expenses.

As of 2021, former presidents receive $221,400 in annual pension, plus free postage, allowances for office staff, paid travel allowances, medical expenses, lifetime Secret Service protection, and a state funeral. Former presidents receive a pension based on their tenure as President, unlike the Vice President who receives a pension based on their role as President of the Senate.

How much does the President get for a pension?

Upon leaving office, a former president receives a taxable lifetime pension equal to the annual basic pay of a Cabinet Secretary. This amount is reviewed yearly by Congress, and as of 2021, it was set at $221, 400. Other extras include free postage for life and payroll for office staff. The pension becomes effective from noon on Inauguration day.

In addition to the pension benefit, former Presidents receive seven months of transition expenses immediately after inauguration. These expenses help the former president transition to private life and pay for office space, communication, and costs involved in briefing the outgoing administration.

If the President resigns from office before the end of their office term, they are entitled to an equivalent lifetime pension and other perks provided to other former presidents.  However, if a President is impeached from office, they forfeit the annual pension and most of the benefits provided to former presidents by the Former Presidents Act.

How long do former presidents get a pension?

Former presidents receive a lifetime annual pension, alongside other perks like staff allowances, office allowances, travel expenses, and Secret Service Protection. Pensions for former presidents were introduced in 1958 with the enactment of the Former President’s Act (FPA). Before the FPA was enacted, former presidents did not receive a pension.   

Congress passed FPA in response to President Harry Truman's modest lifestyle after leaving the presidency. After leaving office, Truman faced many financial difficulties and only lived off his Army pension of $112.56, equivalent to $1000 in today's dollar value. As a result, the enactment of the FPA helped maintain the dignity of the former president with a $25,000 yearly annuity, which Congress reviews annually. While Truman did not benefit from this Act, Former President D Eisenhower became the first beneficiary of the act.

Do spouses of former presidents get a pension?

By being the spouse of an ex-president, first spouses and widows of former presidents get a $20,000 annual pension and free postage for life. The spouses also receive Secret Service Protection for their lifetime, but this protection is terminated when the spouse remarries. If a  spouse does not receive secret service protection, they receive $500,000 annually for security and travel.

How long do former presidents get Secret Service Protection?

Former presidents and their families get lifetime Secret Service Protection after leaving office. Congress had reduced the duration of Secret Service Protection in 1994 to 10 years after leaving office but reinstated the lifetime protection in 2012. Secret Service Protection also applies to spouses of former presidents. Children of former presidents also receive Secret Service Protection until age 16.

If the president does not receive secret service protection, the Former President’s Act provides $1 million annually for security services and travel expenses. The only former president who gave up Secret Service Protection is Richard Nixon, who opted to pay for his security to save the government money.

Other perks provided to former presidents

Staff and Office Allowances

Once they leave office, former Presidents get funding for their office staff and office expenses. In the first 30 months after inauguration, a former President receives up to $150,000 to set up the office, while in later years, the Former President's Act limits the staff funding to $96,000 annually. If the cost of running the office exceeds this limit, the former President will bear the additional costs.

Medical expenses

If the former President had enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program for at least five years, meaning they served for at least two terms, they are eligible for health annuities. When a former president or a member of their immediate family is ill, they can be treated in a military hospital. The former President can also decide to enroll in private health insurance at their cost.

State Funeral

When a former President dies, they are granted a state funeral with full military honors, and they have the option of being buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The military must consider the wishes of the former President’s family when planning the federal.

Travel expenses

When the former President is traveling as an official representative of the United States, the travel expenses are covered by the General Service Administration (GSA). The travel expenses cover the former President and up to two staff members, and they can be reimbursed up to $1 million in travel costs annually. If the former President is traveling for leisure or holiday, GSA does not cover these travel costs

How do presidents make money after leaving office?

Since Presidents earn hefty salaries while in office (up to $400,000 annually), you may wonder how they make money after leaving office. Former presidents have pursued different careers after leaving office, and some have become wealthier after leaving office.

Most former presidents have made careers from public speaking, starting charitable organizations, to becoming producers. George Washington stepped down as President and became a Whiskey distiller, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, Bill Clinton became a spoken-word recording artist, and even won two Grammy Awards, while William Howard went on to become Supreme Court Justice.

Former presidents earn additional incomes from making public appearances, giving speeches, brand sponsorships, and book deals. Obama charges up to $400,000 for a speaking engagement, Bill Clinton earned $700,000 (adjusted for inflation) for a speech, and Ronald Reagan earned $2.1 million for a pair of speeches in Japan. In 2018, Obama signed a $65 million video production deal with Netflix to produce content for the streaming website and another $25 million podcast deal with Spotify in 2019.