How Donald Trump makes and spends his money

Portfolio

[Originally written for and published by loveMONEY.com]

Donald Trump’s fortune now and then

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Donald Trump failed in his second bid for the US presidency, and as America’s economy was a big part of the former president’s speech, many have wondered how Trump’s own personal finances are shaping up now that he has left the country’s highest office. In fact, it looks like the presidency might have been one of Trump’s worst business decisions yet, as his fortune has dropped from $3 billion (£2.1bn) when he started the job to $2.3 billion (£1.6bn) today according to Bloomberg. The COVID-19 pandemic and the riot at the Capitol have greatly impacted the former world leader’s brand and businesses, and crucially could impact his relationship with lenders just as $590 million (£422m) in loans will come due in the next four years, with half of those guaranteed by Trump himself. Click or scroll through to see how the billionaire former president of the United States makes, and spends, his money, and how things look now he’s left the White House. All dollar amounts in US dollars.

Money from his father

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Born into wealth, Donald Trump is the son of the late real estate tycoon Fred Trump (pictured here with his late wife and Donald’s mother Mary Anne). The former president was reportedly able to kickstart his billion-dollar business empire with what he described as a “very small” $1 million (£412k) loan from his father in 1975. Investigations carried out by the New York Times later suggested that Trump Senior had actually lent his son at least $60.7 million – an amount worth around $140 million (£101.8m) in today’s money.

Family wealth

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The New York Times investigations documented 295 different streams of revenue used by Fred Trump to pass his wealth onto his son, including officially making him his landlord, employing him as his property manager and signing over large chunks of real estate. It was concluded that, by 2018, Donald Trump had amassed the equivalent of at least $413 million (£300.4m) via his father. 

Real estate legacy

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Fred Trump built his wealth through savvy real estate development, and his son followed in his footsteps. One of Donald Trump’s early major successes was acquiring the Commodore Hotel in New York, which he bought in partnership with the Hyatt Organization for an undisclosed amount in 1976. The hotel was $1.5 million (£735k) in debt before it was transformed into the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which went on to become one of the Big Apple’s most iconic places to stay. Trump had taken on a risky investment but it paid off, by 1996 business was booming and he sold his half of the hotel to Hyatt for $142 million (£93m). A crucial part of the project’s success was Donald Trump’s tax negotiation abilities, which would have repercussions later in his career…

Commercial real estate

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The former president continues to profit from the swathes of property he owns across the world, including 125,000 square feet of commercial real estate near Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Between 2016 and 2021 Trump’s commercial real estate assets have dropped 26% in value, and are now worth $1.7 billion (£1.2bn) according to Bloomberg. Impacted greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump may be concerned about the future of his commercial real estate interests as it makes up three-quarters of his fortune. Notably, he has $256.8 million (£183.8m) in debt on his commercial real estate. Trump is pictured in 1980 with a model of what has become one of Fifth Avenue’s most recognisable buildings and arguably the most famous his organisation has built: Trump Tower. The building’s biggest commercial tenant today, according to the New York Times, is luxury brand Gucci.

Residential real estate

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Trump also boasts a bulging residential real estate portfolio, with more than 500 units across America, which had an estimated value of $235 million (£183m) at the beginning of 2020. Following the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump’s residential real estate is now believed to be worth $148 million (£115m). Trump also leases residences he’s not occupying, which is quite the money-spinner. During 2017, the former president rented out his estate Chateau des Palmiers on the Caribbean island of St. Martin for an eye-watering rate of up to $20,000 (£16.2k) per night.

Golf courses, clubs and resorts

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In 1999, Donald Trump acquired his first golf course, the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, and Trump Golf has since expanded to include 16 locations in the US, Scotland, Ireland and Dubai, with two sites in Indonesia and another Dubai course coming soon. Between 2017 and 2019 alone, the then-president raked in an impressive $753 million (£569m) in revenue from his golf resorts and his exclusive Florida members’ club Mar-a-Lago, according to Forbes. As with the rest of his real estate, the value of Trump’s golf courses has dropped during the pandemic, giving them a current value of $271.1 million (£211m). Since 2015, income from Trump’s golf clubs has fallen by 19%, while income from his hotels and resort has dropped by a huge 42%, underlining the fact Trump’s time in office hasn’t exactly boosted his business interests. Trump currently has $18 million (£12.9m) in debts from his golf interests, and $330 million (£236m) from his resorts and hotels.

The Trump brand

While Donald Trump’s surname may have become synonymous with property and golf in his pre-presidency days, the Trump Organization had already begun to licence the name to other companies in the 1980s. This propelled it, and him, to become a globally-recognised brand long before he took to the political podium. 

The Trump brand

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A whole host of products and companies came under the Trump umbrella, including agency Trump Models, founded in 1999, which provided a $2 million (£1.4m) annual income and had the likes of Paris Hilton and Trump’s wife Melania on its books before it closed in 2017. The Trump seal of approval wasn’t an instant ticket to success, however, and plenty of ideas flopped, including Trump magazine, Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks. The value of the Trump brand has been hotly disputed over the years. After the Capitol riot, Trump Plaza in Florida’s West Palm Beach voted to drop Trump’s name, and New York City is attempting to stop his contracts for ice rinks, a carousel and a golf course. Donald Trump claimed that his name was worth $3 billion (£1.8bn) in 2011, while Forbes reported that a more modest $200 million (£123m) was a better estimate.

Battling bankruptcy

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Not all of Donald Trump’s bigger business ventures have gone well either, and parts of his empire have had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on six separate occasions between 1991 and 2009 prior to his stint as president. The businesses that needed reorganisation include both of the billionaire’s Atlantic City casinos and Trump’s Plaza Hotel in New York City. But Trump claims that he profited immensely even from some of his less successful projects, saying “the money [he] took out of [Atlantic City] was incredible” in a 2016 interview with the New York Times.

More on Donald Trump’s best and worst business decisions

TV and movie appearances

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Having built up his reputation as a formidable businessman, Donald Trump became the executive producer and star of NBC show The Apprentice, which debuted in 2004. Excellent ratings didn’t just make Trump a household name, it also paid well. The host reportedly made $427 million (£276m) in earnings, endorsements and licensing from the show’s 14 seasons. When merchandise and spoofs started to pop up using Trump’s infamous phrase “You’re fired!”, he attempted to reap royalties from its popularity by trademarking the expression, but was unsuccessful.

More on this and other unusual trademark battles

TV and movie appearances

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The Apprentice wasn’t Donald Trump’s first time in front of the cameras, as he had also made a brief appearance on the big screen back in 1992 in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, where he encounters main character Kevin in the Plaza Hotel. The hotel was owned by Trump at the time, and while an undisclosed fee had already been arranged for filming in its lobby, there was an additional caveat. According to Insider, the billionaire said at the time: “The only way you can use the Plaza is if I’m in the movie.” So Trump not only profited financially from the film but also got a cameo role. However, one entertainment income he has lost since his presidency is his Screen Actors Guild pension, as after the Capitol riot Trump quit before the Guild severed his membership. Before this, SAG had paid out $80,000 (£57k) in pension to Trump in 2020.

Books that used to be best-selling

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Over the course of his career, Donald Trump has penned a total of 19 books, ranging from a manual of golf advice and guides for building a fortune to a crime novel about Trump Tower. One of the most popular of Trump’s works is his memoir The Art of a Deal, which was written in 1987 and benefitted from a resurgence in sales when its author ran for president. However, once Trump was in office that dramatically changed…

Books that used to be best-selling

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Income from Trump’s books dropped to at least $119,341 (£85.4k) in 2020 from more than $888,000 (£635k) in 2015 according to Bloomberg. That said, his most lucrative book deal could be his next. Most presidents write a post-White House memoir, with Barack Obama reportedly receiving $65 million (£46.5m) to write his. While nothing has been announced yet, the former president was rumoured to have been offered dozens of new book and TV deals since leaving the White House, which could be worth up to $100 million (£71.8m) according to the New York Post

US presidency

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Since 2001, every president of the United States has received an annual salary of $400,000 (£287k) plus expenses, but Donald Trump’s period in office is reported to have been more lucrative than most, as he juggled his presidential and business interests throughout his term. He had held a total of 88 political events at Trump properties as of September 2020, along with 13 foreign government events. 

US presidency

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It wasn’t just money from guests’ overnight stays that was channelled into the Trump Organization, but also from the heavy security detail required whenever Trump and other officials were on the move. Documents showed that the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 (£203k) staying at various Trump locations in a five-month period in 2017 in order to accompany the president. The Washington Post then revealed that the Secret Service paid $650 (£505) per room per night for stays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, while $17,000 (£13.2k) was spent renting a cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. It’s also estimated that $2.3 million (£1.8m) from Trump’s presidential campaign fed into his private businesses, including the $1.6 million (£1.2m) spent on renting space at Trump Tower in the run-up to the 2020 election. 

Tax breaks

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Donald Trump’s tax returns were another contentious finance issue in his second bid for the presidency, as it came to light that the then-president had only paid $750 (£537) in federal income tax in both 2016 and 2017. Further examination showed that he paid no tax at all in 11 of the 18 years’ worth of records obtained by the New York Times. Clever usage of taxes has been at the heart of some of Trump’s best business deals, however – when he first bought the heavily-indebted Commodore Hotel, the property mogul negotiated a 40-year tax break that saved the project more than $360 million (£178m) between its purchase in the 1970s and 2020.

Post-presidential life still looks perky

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Having avoided two possible impeachments in the last four years, Donald Trump is also still entitled to all of the perks of post-presidency life, which include a $199,000 (£143k) annual pension, as well as travel expense allowances, staff and personal security for life. His current net worth has dropped since he took the top job, and Trump’s wealth is estimated at $2.3 billion (£1.6bn) by Bloomberg, although Forbesputs his wealth slightly higher at $2.5 billion (£1.8bn). However, both figures are far lower than Trump himself has said he is worth in the past, even allowing for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on his business interests. But how will he be spending his annual post-presidency income and the rest of his fortune? 

Mar-a-lago is still paying off

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While Donald Trump has made billions through real estate investments, it’s where he spends a lot of his money too. The property tycoon may have moved out of America’s most famous house, but he has plenty of other million-dollar residences to choose from, including the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, which Trump allegedly bought in 1985 for $10 million (£9.4m). The value of the 58-bedroom property has since skyrocketed to $170 million (£122.1m), according to Business Insider. In fact, it is one business interest that hasn’t been too greatly impacted by Trump’s presidency, bringing in $22.9 million (£16.4m) in 2020, up from $22.3 million (£15.9m) in 2015.

Read more about Mar-A-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach hideaway, on our sister site lovePROPERTY.com

Other commercial real estate

nyker/Shutterstock Perhaps the most iconic of Trump’s properties is the sky-scraping Trump Tower on Wall Street in New York. While the entire building is multi-use, floors 66 to 68 consist of Trump’s personal triplex penthouse apartment. The apartment alone is worth an estimated $64 million (£49.7m).

Trump’s private properties

Courtesy The Trump Organization 

Other properties belonging to Donald Trump include Seven Springs in Bedford, New York (pictured), which was reportedly bought for $7.5 million (£4.9m) in 1996 and is now thought to be worth $24 million (£18.7m), and his home on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, reportedly worth $13 million (£10.1m). Seven Springs was set to become a golf course but remains a private property following opposition from local residents. Trump is also believed to own two homes in Sterling, Virginia with a combined value of $1.5 million (£1.2m), along with two other properties in Palm Beach in addition to Mar-a-Lago.

Decadent décor 

Courtesy The Mar-a-Lago Club 

And it isn’t just the properties themselves that come with a hefty price tag. Donald Trump is known for his decadent taste in décor, with the interiors of his Fifth Avenue penthouse reportedly inspired by the Palace of Versailles. The apartment is adorned with gold candelabras, classical paintings and designer furniture. Cash was most recently splashed on renovations at Mar-a-Lago ahead of the former president’s departure from the White House. The alterations won’t have come cheap, as they were rumoured to have featured large quantities of dark wood and white marble.

Gold

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Donald Trump’s interest in gold isn’t purely aesthetic – it’s also been reported that he owns thousands of dollars’ worth of the precious metal in a financial capacity. In 2015, the then-Republican candidate nominee submitted financial statements to the Federal Election Commission, which listed gold assets worth between $100,001 and $200,000 (£65k-£130k). Trump also accepted gold bullion in place of a lease deposit from a tenant of his 40 Wall Street building in a highly-publicised event in 2011.

Luxury aircraft

Robert Alexander/Contributor/Getty Images It’s safe to say that the 45th president of the United States has a penchant for luxury, and that also applies to how he travels. Trump’s air fleet includes a Boeing 757 – nicknamed Trump Force One – with fuel costs that rocket into the thousands of dollars per hour of flying. The airliner was allegedly bought in 2010 for $100 million (£67m) to replace Trump’s older plane – an $8 million (£7.5m) Boeing 727 bought in the 1980s.

Luxury aircraft

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Also among the fleet is a 1997 Cessna Citation X jet, which would have been worth around $15.3 million (£9.4m) new, along with three Sikorsky helicopters, which will typically set a buyer back between $5 million and $7 million (£3.9m-£5.4m). In true Trump style, the aircraft are lavishly decked out. Trump Force One boasts gold-plated seat belts and a bathroom with golden sinks, while a refurbishment of one helicopter in the early 2010s saw the interiors finessed with 24-carat gold-plated hardware at a cost of $750,000 (£461k). That said, Bloomberg estimates Trump’s collection of aircraft has fallen in value by 59% since 2016, and is now worth $31 million (£22m).

High-end cars

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Trump also has a pretty impressive garage, featuring various top-of-the-line cars including a vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Ferrari, a Maybach, and a Mercedes-Benz 3600, according to Business Insider. The billionaire has always had a taste for flash cars – pictured is the 1987 Mercedes Cabrio bought by Trump and his first wife Ivana in the late 1980s.

See more billionaire planes, trains and automobiles

Political campaigning

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While most of the funds for a presidential campaign come from candidate committees and outside groups, such as super political action committees (PACs), some candidates choose to throw their own money into the mix too. Donald Trump injected $66 million (£47m) of his fortune into his $322 million (£230m) bid for the presidency in 2016, although $11 million (£7.9m) of that amount went back into Trump-related interests, such as Trump Organization-owned hotels and his private jet. In 2020 Trump chose not to donate any of his own money to his re-election efforts, making him the first billionaire candidate not to do so. 

Giving back

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In 2016 Donald Trump promised he would donate all of his salary if elected as president, and he stuck to his word. Each quarter a different federal agency received a $100,000 (£77.7k) cheque on his behalf. After tax deductions Trump’s take-home salary would have been closer to $78,000 (£60.6k), so it’s likely the then-president dipped into his own finances to donate a round $100,000 every three months, or $1.6 million (£1.2m) over the four-year term. Trump also donated a total of $130 million (£101m) to charity between 2005 and 2020 according to his tax returns, although $119.3 million (£92.7m) of that was in conservation easements, which involve donating land development rights to a conservation charity while retaining ownership of the land and gaining considerable tax benefits in the process. 

Golf

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If Donald Trump wasn’t in the White House during his term in office, you could almost certainly find him on a golf course. He made an estimated 298 golf outings during his presidency, at an alleged cost of around $145 million (£113m) to the American taxpayer. The expenses covered travel, overnight stays and the extensive security detail he required as head of state. Now that he has left the White House, Trump will be picking up most of those costs himself, although former presidents are afforded life-long security protection as part of their retirement package.

Personal styling

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As a man who is always in the spotlight, appearance is incredibly important to Donald Trump. The former president has long had an affinity for Brioni menswear, and while it was supplied free of charge during his run on The Apprentice, Trump started to pay for his suits during the 2016 presidential campaign. Each suit sets him back between $5,250 and $6,900 (£4.1k-£5.4k). The former president’s tax returns also revealed that $70,000 (£54k) had been spent on styling his hair while he was on the hit TV show, all of which had been claimed back as expenses. It appears that being camera-ready is no cheap pursuit if you’re Donald Trump.

Lawsuits

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From suave suits to lawsuits. Donald Trump has had a fair few run-ins with the law during his lengthy career, and had been involved in a total of 3,500 legal actions across federal and state courts before he first ran for office in 2016, according to USA Today. The best-known and priciest of Trump’s legal mishaps was the Trump University litigation. The businessman was slapped with a $25 million (£17.9m) settlement fee in 2016 after students had paid $35,000 (£27k) for Trump’s ‘get rich quick’ classes, which failed to deliver and were described as “fraudulent” by an attorney general. Having now lost the protections afforded by the White House, Donald Trump could have many more costly legal battles in his future.

Family fortune

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While Donald Trump infamously told the Fox & Friends talk show that his birthday gift for wife Melania in 2018 was “a very nice card” as he’s too “busy to be running out looking for presents”, the rest of the former president’s family doesn’t appear to be too hard-up when it comes to benefitting from Trump’s wealth. 

Family fortune

Mark Wilson/Staff/Getty Images Donald and Melania Trump’s only son together, 14-year-old Barron, attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Maryland during his father’s presidency, at a cost of $40,000 (£31.1k) a year. In January Melania was seen scoping out new schools in Florida ready for the family’s departure from the White House, including the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, which costs a slightly cheaper $35,150 (£27.3k) per year. 

Family fortune

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The teenager (pictured with Melania and half-sister Ivanka in 2009) is very accustomed to a life of luxury and, when he was just seven years old, Melania told ABC News that she lathered him in her now-defunct brand of caviar moisturiser each night before bed. Barron also enjoys his own floor of the triplex Trump Tower penthouse when the family is living in New York and has received a plethora of gifts thanks to his father’s celebrity, including a chandelier from Ellen DeGeneres and a horse from the former President of Mongolia.

Family fortune

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Donald Trump’s grown-up children have also profited from his empire, with Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump (pictured left and second from left respectively) both working as Executive Vice Presidents at the Trump Organization, through which they’ve amassed fortunes of around $25 million (£19.4m) apiece. Sharing his father’s name could be a blessing or a curse for Donald Trump Jr, but it has highlighted something that his father doesn’t splash the cash on, and that’s gifts. Donald Jr. often received second-hand monogrammed presents that had been given to the former president but then passed onto him given that they share the same initials, according to an interview with Extra TV.

Family fortune

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Ivanka Trump (pictured right) is the richest of the Trump siblings, having built up a fashion empire alongside her dealings at the family business, giving her a net worth of around $375 million (£291m). She also seems to have inherited her father’s affinity for expensive grooming services, as a sum of $95,464 (£74.2k) was among the expenses in the 2020 reveal of Donald Trump’s finances. Tiffany (pictured left) is the only grown-up Trump child who isn’t involved in the family business – instead she attended Georgetown Law school until last year, at a cost of around $69,000 (£49k) per academic year.

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