Presidential Salaries Through the Years

Only Five Pay Raises Since George Washington Was in the White House

The president of the United States is now paid $400,000 a year. Unlike members of Congress, the president does not get an automatic pay raise or cost-of-living adjustment every year.

The president's salary is set by Congress, and lawmakers have seen fit to raise the pay for the most powerful position in the world precisely five times since George Washington became the nation's first president in 1789.

The most recent salary hike was effective in 2001 when President George W. Bush became the first commander-in-chief to make the $400,000 salary—double the amount his predecessor, President Bill Clinton, was paid a year.

Presidents don't have the power to raise their own salaries. In fact, this point is specifically covered in the U.S. Constitution which states that:

"The President shall, at stated times receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected ..."

Washington tried to decline his presidential salary, but since it is required by the Constitution he accepted it. Likewise, President Donald Trump pledged to work without a salary, but since he was legally required to accept it has instead given the quarterly pay back to various government agencies since he has been in office.

Here's a look at presidential salaries through the years, a list of which presidents were paid how much, starting with the current rate of pay.

$400,000

George W. Bush
President George W. Bush delivers the 2007 State of the Union address. Pool / Getty Images News

President George W. Bush, who took office in January of 2001, became the first president to earn the current pay rate of $400,000. The president's $400,000 salary took effect in 2001 and remains the current pay rate for president.

The current president also gets a budget of $50,000 for expenses, $100,000 for a nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment.

Receiving the $400,000 salary were:

  • George W. Bush
  • Barack Obama
  • Donald Trump
  • Joe Biden

$200,000

Richard Nixon sits at a desk with papers in hand

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

President Richard Nixon, who took office in January of 1969, was the first president to be paid $200,000 a year for his service in the White House. The salary of $200,000 for president went into effect in 1969 and continued through 2000. That would be $1.4 million in 2019 dollars the first year the pay went into effect.

Earning $200,000 a year were:

  • Richard Nixon
  • Gerald Ford
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Ronald Reagan
  • George H.W. Bush
  • Bill Clinton

$100,000

Dewey Defeats Truman Newspaper
Underwood Archives / Contributor

President Harry Truman began his second term in 1949 by getting a 33 percent pay raise. He was the first president to earn six figures, going from the $75,000 that presidents had been paid since 1909 to $100,000. The salary of $100,000 went into effect in 1949 and continued through 1969. The 1949 pay would be $1.08 million in 2019 dollars.

Earning $100,000 a year were:

  • Harry Truman
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon Johnson

$75,000

Picture of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt sitting together in Hyde Park.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York. (1906). (Picture courtesy the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)

American presidents were paid $75,000 beginning in 1909 with the term of William Howard Taft and continuing through Truman's first term. The 1909 pay would be $2.1 million in 2019 dollars.

Earning $75,000 were:

  • William Howard Taft
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Warren Harding
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Herbert Hoover
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Harry S. Truman

$50,000

Theodore Roosevelt looking at papers at his desk

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

American presidents were paid $50,000 beginning in 1873 with the second term of Ulysses S. Grant and continuing through Theodore Roosevelt. The 1873 pay would be $1.07 million in 2019 dollars.

Earning $50,000 were:

  • Ulysses S. Grant 
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • James Garfield
  • Chester Arthur
  • Grover Cleveland
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • Grover Cleveland
  • William McKinley
  • Theodore Roosevelt

$25,000

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The first American presidents earned $25,000. Adjusting for 2019 dollars, Washington's salary would be $729,429.

Those earning $25,000 were:

  • George Washington
  • John Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Madison
  • James Monroe
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Martin Van Buren
  • William Henry Harrison
  • John Tyler
  • James K. Polk
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Millard Fillmore
  • Franklin Pierce
  • James Buchanan
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Ulysses S. Grant
View Article Sources
  1. "3 U.S.C. §102: Compensation of the President." U.S. Government Publishing Office, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2011-title3/html/USCODE-2011-title3-chap2-sec102.htm.

  2. "Presidential and Vice Presidential Salaries Exclusive of Perquisites." University of Michigan, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~graceyor/govdocs/fedprssal.html.

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Murse, Tom. "Presidential Salaries Through the Years." ThoughtCo, Jan. 19, 2021, thoughtco.com/presidential-salaries-through-the-years-3368133. Murse, Tom. (2021, January 19). Presidential Salaries Through the Years. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/presidential-salaries-through-the-years-3368133 Murse, Tom. "Presidential Salaries Through the Years." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/presidential-salaries-through-the-years-3368133 (accessed April 19, 2021).