Salaries and Retirement Benefits of U.S. Presidents and Other Federal Government Employees
Example Questions That Can Be Answered Using This FAQ
- How much does the President make in a year?
- What is the pension amount given to former Presidents and Vice Presidents?
- What is the salary of a cabinet member, senator, representative, federal judge? How much do they get as pension 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 officials, 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 current U.S. President salary continues to stand at the same amount of $400,000 every year. The President also receives a $50,000 non-taxable expense account. The compensation of the President is controlled by law, specifically 3 USC 102 (“Office and 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 also explore another document by the Congressional Research Service called Congressional Salaries and Allowances: In Brief by Ida A. Brudnick, Specialist on the Congress, for more recent information.
To track most federal officials’ salary changes that were made each year since 1996, visit the Office of Personnel Management’s Compensation Policy Memoranda page, which will have a link to the most recent pay adjustment information.
For information on previous U.S. Congress salaries, including the current Vice President salary, see the Historical Table of Congressional Salaries listed on the House Press Gallery website.
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 $219,200/year as of January 2020 (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: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits by Daniel J. Richardson.
Also, legislation that Congress passed in 1997 (Public Law 103-329) initially 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 were to receive protection only for 10 years after they left office. However, G. W. Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, reinstated the lifetime Secret Service protection for himself, G. W. Bush, and all future Presidents with the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012.
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 Katelin P. Isaacs 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.
“There were 617 retired Members of Congress receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service as of October 1, 2018. Of this number, 318 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $75,528. A total of 299 Members had retired with service under FERS and were receiving an average annual pension of $41,208 in 2018.”
These U.S. Office of Personnel Management webpages explain FERS and CSRS:
- Federal Employees Retirement System (https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/fers-information/)
- Civil Service Retirement System (https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/csrs-information/)
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).
Also, unlike earlier, former Vice Presidents (much like former Presidents) also receive Secret Service protection now. The U.S. Secret Service lists them on their FAQ on “Who is the Secret Service authorized to protect?”.
The Congress passed H.R. 5938 – the Former Vice President Protection Act of 2008 – specifically to amend Title 18 in the US Code so as to provide this protection to former Vice Presidents.
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 (https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/uscode/2011)
- U.S. Code – LII / Legal Information Institute – Cornell University Law School (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text)