Salaries and Retirement Benefits of U.S. Presidents and Other Federal Government Employees
Example Questions That Can Be Answered Using This FAQ
- What is the current salary of the U.S. President?
- What is the pension amount given to former Presidents and Vice Presidents?
- How much does a (cabinet member, senator, representative, federal judge) make now? After they retire?
Especially during the transition from one U.S. Presidential administration to another, we receive a lot of questions about the salaries, retirement benefits and pensions of elected federal officialsa and former Presidents.
Presidential Salary Information
The most recent salary increase, to $400,000/year from $200,000/year, took effect when George W. Bush became President. The President also receives a $50,000 non-taxable expense account. The compensation of the President is controlled by law, specifically 3 USC 102 (“Compensation of the President”, Title 3, Section 102, of the US Code).
You can view the section of the U.S. Code dealing with presidential salaries at the United States Code website published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives.
You can also view this section of the U.S. Code at Cornell University Law School’s LII/Legal Information Institute’s U.S. Code collection website.
The University of Michigan’s Document Center has also created this page which summarizes Presidential and Vice Presidential Salaries from 1789 to the present. President George Washington, for example, was offered a salary of $25,000/year.
Salary Information for Vice President and Other High Ranking Federal Officials
Other federal officials, such as the Vice President, Cabinet members, and members of Congress do not have fixed salaries, but rather ones that can increase annually. These salaries are summed up for the years of 2003 to 2005 in an online document published by the Congressional Research Service called Salaries of Federal Officials by Barbara L. Schwemle [CRS Report for Congress 98-53 GOV].
It’s a PDF file. If you have trouble opening it, install the free download of the Adobe Reader software to open it.
You can track most federal officials’ salary changes that were made each year since 1996 by visiting the Office of Personnel Management’s Compensation Policy Memoranda page, which will have a link to the most recent pay adjustment information.
For example, the January 2002 Pay Adjustments page has a link to this text document, showing the following salary information: Vice President – $192,600; Speaker of the House – $192,600; Majority & Minority Leaders of the Senate & House – $166,700; Senators & Representatives – $150,000; Cabinet members (Executive Schedule, Level 1) – $166,700; etc.
For a historical look at Congressional salaries, see this Congressional Pay Rates page from CongressLink.
Presidential Pension Information
The retirement benefits received by former Presidents include a pension, Secret Service protection, and reimbursements for staff, travel, mail, and office expenses. The Presidential pension is not a fixed amount, rather it matches the current salary of Cabinet members (or Executive Level I personnel), which is $191,300/year as of March, 2008 (but see “Salary Info” section above for advice on how to track increases in this figure).
If you are interested in more information on presidential pensions, an excellent resource on former Presidents’ retirement benefits is the Congressional Research Service PDF document called Former Presidents: Federal Pension and Retirement Benefits by Stephanie Smith [CRS Report for Congress 98-249 GOV].
Also, according to the United States Secret Service: Frequently Asked Questions page, legislation that Congress passed in 1997 (Public Law 103-329) made President Clinton the last president to receive secret service protection for the rest of his life. George W. Bush and all presidents after him will receive protection for 10 years after they leave office. To see the bill, search THOMAS on the Library of Congress website for more information on H.R. 4539. (The GPO Access page for Public and Private Laws does not have online records that go back far enough.)
Pension Information for Vice President and Other High Ranking Federal Officials
As with salaries, the rules governing the retirement benefits of the Vice President, Cabinet members, members of Congress and other federal officials are different than those that apply to the President, with benefits laid-out in the rules of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Thus, their retirement benefits (including pensions) will vary from individual to individual, depending on factors such as years of service.
The following paragraph excerpted from the Congressional Research Service PDF document called Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress by Patrick J. Purcell [CRS Report RL30631] provides some idea of how much the pensions are for former Vice Presidents, Cabinet members, members of Congress and other federal officials. It provides averages for annual pensions given to retired members of Congress.
“As of October 1, 2006, 413 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal
pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service. Of this number, 290
had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $60,972.
A total of 123 Members had retired with service under both CSRS and FERS or with
service under FERS only. Their average annual pension was $35,952 in 2006.”
These Office of Personnel Management webpages explain FERS and CSRS:
- Federal Employees Retirement System (http://www.opm.gov/RETIRE/PRE/FERS/INDEX.ASP)
- Civil Service Retirement System (http://www.opm.gov/retire/pre/csrs/index.asp)
You can also look at the US Code on “Civil Service Retirement” (Title 5, Part III, Subpart G, Chapter 83, Subchapter III).
Information on rules governing the retirement benefits of members of the federal judicial system can be found in the US Code at 28 USC Sec. 627 (Title 28, Part III, Chapter 42, Section 627).
Note that former Vice Presidents (unlike former Presidents) do not receive Secret Service protection. The U.S. Secret Service does not list them on either their Protective Mission page or their FAQ on “Who is the Secret Service authorized to protect?”.
Also, a bill being considered in 2008 by Congress (H.R. 5938) was created specifically to amend Title 18 in the US Code so as to provide this protection to former Vice Presidents. Search THOMAS on the Library of Congress website for more information on H.R. 5938.
Here are some additional websites to which we referred when answering this information.
- Emily Yoffe’s “A Presidential Salary FAQ” in Slate Magazine’s Explainer section from Jan. 3, 2001 (http://www.slate.com/id/1006798/)
- C-SPAN’s Capitol Questions with Ilona Nickls. C-SPAN Resident Congressional Scholar (http://www.c-span.org/questions/weekly68.htm)
- snopes.com – Congressional Pensions (http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/pensions.asp)
Since we cite the US Code a number of times, here are three places on the web that will let you search and/or browse the US Code.
- Office of the Law Revision Counsel – U.S. House of Representatives (http://uscode.house.gov/)
- U.S. Government Printing Office’s US Code webpage (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/)
- U.S. Code – LII / Legal Information Institute – Cornell University Law School (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/)