Presidential Retirement Benefits and Pension

San Francisco Giants v Texas Rangers, Game 4
Pool / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Presidential retirement benefits were non-existent until the enactment of the Former Presidents Act (FPA) in 1958. Since then, presidential retirement benefits have included a lifetime annual pension, staff and office allowances, travel expenses, Secret Service protection, and more.

Former presidents haven’t always had a golden parachute. Ulysses S. Grant’s family nearly became penniless until his deathbed autobiography, published by and marketed by Mark Twain became a bestseller.

The FPA was inspired by former President Harry Truman's life of modest means after leaving office. After returning home to Independence, Missouri, Truman lived off his Army pension—about $1,000 a month in 2021 dollars—while spending thousands responding to correspondence. In 1957, Truman admitted to House Majority Leader John McCormack that he was going broke. In 1958, McCormack succeeded in winning passage of the FPA to “maintain the dignity” of the office of the president with an annuity of $25,000 per year and office expenses. Though Truman lived well more than a decade after the act's passage, it didn't apply to him. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower became the FPA’s first beneficiary.

According to the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages benefits for former presidents, former President Donald Trump has received more than $342,030.81 in pension benefits since he left office in January 2021. That figure accounts for the period from the time his eligibility began after his presidency ended, through July 2022.

Like earlier former presidents, Mr. Trump receives a lifetime federal pension and a range of taxpayer funded benefits under the Former Presidents Act.   

After the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home for classified documents he allegedly removed from the White House in violation of the Presidential Records Act, Mr. Trump and his aids blamed the GSA for mishandling the move and, they argued, mistakenly hauling the classified materials to Florida. 

In doing so, they blamed the very agency that manages his pension and a range of financial benefits that fund his official office operations. 

A GSA official told NBC News that it had no role deciding what records were sent to Mar-a-Lago, saying that the “GSA required the outgoing transition team to certify in writing that the items being shipped were required to wind down the Office of the Former President and would be utilized as the Office transitioned to its new location in Florida.”

The taxable portion of Mr. Trump’s annualized pension is about $230,000. According to the GSA, the pension amount for former presidents is intended to be on par with executive branch cabinet level secretaries. Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama also receive a lifetime federal pension. The 2023 federal budget request includes $5.2 million to provide for expenses related to the five living former presidents’ needs. 

For fiscal year 2023, the proposed budget also included an increase of $140,000 for Mr. Trump, $53,000 for Mr. Clinton and $7,000 for Mr. Carter. Those increases were describes as lease expirations, cleaning services needs and anticipated increase in retirement benefits.


Former presidents are offered a taxable lifetime pension equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the heads of executive branch departments, like the Cabinet Secretaries. This amount is set annually by Congress and as of 2020 was $210,700 per year.

The pension starts the minute the president officially leaves office at noon on Inauguration Day. Widows of former presidents are provided with a $20,000 annual lifetime pension and free postage use unless they choose to waive their right to the pension.

In 1974, the Justice Department ruled that presidents who resign from office before their official terms of office expire are entitled to the same lifetime pension and benefits extended to other former presidents. However, presidents who are removed from office due to impeachment forfeit all benefits.

Transition Expenses

For the first seven months, beginning one month before the January 20 inauguration, former presidents get transition funding to help them transition back into private life. Granted under the Presidential Transition Act, the funds can be used for office space, staff compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the transition. The amount provided is determined by Congress.

Staff and Office Allowances

Six months after a president leaves office, they get funds for an office staff. During the first 30 months after leaving office, the former president gets a maximum of $150,000 per year for this purpose. Thereafter, the Former Presidents Act stipulates that the aggregate rates of staff compensation for a former president cannot exceed $96,000 annually. Any additional staff costs must be paid for personally by the former president.

Former presidents are compensated for office space and office supplies at any location in the United States. Funds for former presidents' office space and equipment are authorized annually by Congress as part of the budget for the General Services Administration (GSA).

Travel Expenses

Under a law enacted in 1968, the GSA makes funds available to former presidents and no more than two of their staff members for travel and related expenses. To be compensated, the travel must be related to the former president's status as an official representative of the United States government. Travel for pleasure is not compensated. The GSA determines all appropriate costs for travel.

Secret Service Protection

With the enactment of the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6620), on Jan. 10, 2013, former presidents and their spouses receive Secret Service protection for their lifetimes. Under the Act, protection for the spouses of former presidents terminates in the event of remarriage. Children of former presidents receive protection until they reach age 16.

The Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 reversed a law enacted in 1994 that terminated Secret Service protection for former presidents 10 years after they left office.

Richard Nixon is the only former president to have given up his Secret Service protection. He did so in 1985 and paid for his own security, saying his reason was to save the government money. (The savings were estimated to be about $3 million a year.)

Medical Expenses

Former presidents and their spouses, widows, and minor children are entitled to treatment in military hospitals. Former presidents and their dependents also have the option of enrolling in private health insurance plans at their own expense.

State Funerals

Former presidents are traditionally granted state funerals with military honors. Details of the funeral are based on the wishes of the former president's family.


In April 2015, Congress passed a bill titled The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, which would have capped the pensions of all former and future former presidents at $200,000 and removed the current provision in the Former Presidents Act linking presidential pensions to the annual salaries of cabinet secretaries.

The bill would have also reduced the other allowances paid to former presidents. Annual pensions and allowances would have been limited to a total of no more than $400,000.

But on July 22, 2016, President Barack Obama vetoed the bill stating it “would impose onerous and unreasonable burdens on the offices of former presidents.” In a press release, the White House added that Obama also objected to provisions of the bill that would “immediately terminate salaries and all benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former presidents—leaving no time or mechanism for them to transition to another payroll.”​

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Longley, Robert. "Presidential Retirement Benefits and Pension." ThoughtCo, Dec. 1, 2022, Longley, Robert. (2022, December 1). Presidential Retirement Benefits and Pension. Retrieved from Longley, Robert. "Presidential Retirement Benefits and Pension." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).