During his four years as president, Donald Trump loved to remind people that being president was costing him a whole bunch of money.
“I said to one of my friends, a very wealthy friend, I said, ‘You know, I’ll bet you it cost me $2 or 3 billion and it’s worth every penny of it,’” Trump told Fox News in 2018. “I don’t need the money and it’s worth every penny because I’m doing so much for the country.”
“This thing is costing me a fortune, being president,” he reiterated in 2019.
And this in 2020: “[It] cost me billions of dollars to be president of the United States.”
While Trump’s claims that being president cost him between $3 billion and $5 billion are WAY overblown, the new Forbes list of billionaires in America shows that Trump’s fortune declined by more than $1 billion between when he took office in 2017 and when left office in January.
Trump is now worth $2.4 billion, according to Forbes. That net worth puts him at No. 1,299 on Forbes’ 2021 billionaire list – down from 1,001 in 2020.
According to Forbes’ Dan Alexander, Trump bears a decent chunk of the blame for the decline in his fortune. As Alexander writes:
“Every investor at some point has kicked himself for holding an asset too long. Perhaps none, however, has made such a monumental miscalculation. By refusing to divest his portfolio upon taking office, Trump bogged down his presidency with ethics issues for years, while also missing a chance to cash in on a market boom he helped propel.
“If he had sold everything on Day 1, paid the maximum capital-gains taxes on the sales, then put the proceeds into a conflict-free fund tracking the S&P 500, Trump would have ended his presidency an estimated $1.6 billion richer than he is today.”
Rather than divest of his assets when he was elected president, Trump instead put things in a trust managed by his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. His eldest daughter, Ivanka, on the other hand, divested of all of her major assets – including all common stock – when she joined the White House. According to CREW, a government watchdog, Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner “reported between $172 million and $640 million in outside income while working in the White House.”
Trump’s net worth isn’t a theoretical conversation about how many billions he is worth. We know from detailed New York Times reporting about Trump’s tax returns that the former President is personally on the hook for more than $400 million in loans that come due over the next few years and that his revenue streams – most notably from his successful reality shows and his branding efforts – are dwindling. (Alexander has previously written that Trump is carrying more than $1 billion in debt.) That, plus the fact that Trump’s businesses generated 40% less revenue in 2020 as they did in 2019 suggest that the former President’s current financial situation is less than ideal.
Now, that doesn’t mean Trump is going broke anytime soon. He still has considerable assets and could sell off a bunch of properties he currently owns if he needed to pay the bills. (Selling Trump properties, of course, would be mortifying and embarrassing for the ex-president.) It’s also possible that the financial institutions that hold Trump’s loans will be willing to either roll them over for a few more years or renegotiate the terms.
In short: Trump isn’t on the verge of financial ruin. But he is in a decidedly sticky and precarious financial moment, with declining revenues, few alternative revenue sources available at present and big-time debts coming due.