President Joe Biden long touted his working-class bona fides, claiming to be the poorest member of Congress for most of his time there and earning the moniker “Middle-Class Joe” as a result. Following a 44-year career in the federal government that spanned both the Senate and the vice presidency, Biden made up for lost time after leaving office in 2017 and before moving into the White House in 2021. Thanks to a book deal and the lucrative paid speaker circuit, Middle-Class Joe became a multimillionaire.
So, how did Biden suddenly come into such fortune after stubbornly refusing to identify with the upper class for over four decades? Here’s a closer look at how Middle-Class Joe got rich in a short period of time.
Birthdate: Nov. 20, 1942
Net worth: $8 million
Sources of income: Currently, $400,000 annually as president; previously, book deal, paid speaking engagements
Career highlights: President of the United States (2021-present); vice president (2009-17); U.S. senator representing Delaware (1973-2009)
How Much Is Joe Biden Worth?
Joe Biden’s current net worth is estimated at $8 million by Forbes, based on his financial disclosure report. When he left the vice presidency in 2017, Biden had a net worth of $2.5 million, built on his real estate holdings and pension, Forbes said. In his time out of office, Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, earned $17.3 million, largely between a book deal and high-paying speaking engagements. They used some of their earnings to buy a 4,800-square-foot summer home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for $2.7 million in June 2017. Between the beach house and their permanent Delaware home, the Bidens have more than half their assets tied up in real estate.
How Did Joe Biden Make His Money?
The moniker Middle-Class Joe isn’t exactly right. While relying on his Senate salary alone might have made Biden one of the poorest members of Congress, it still represents the sort of wages that most Americans dream of. When Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, senators were earning $42,500 per annum, or a little over $275,000 a year after adjusting for inflation. His final year in the Senate — 2008 — saw that salary climb to $169,300, but that’s more of a pay cut after factoring in inflation. In today’s dollars, that represents just a little over $213,000. During most of his time as vice president, Biden’s salary jumped to $230,700, and he and his wife, who is a community college professor, reported a gross annual income of just under $400,000 for 2016.
Anyone earning the equivalent of over $200,000 a year for over 40 years can hardly be considered middle class. However, Biden and his family have been a lot closer to that reality than almost any of his Senate colleagues. Biden borrowed against life insurance policies to cover expenses beginning in 1983, and he took out mortgages against the value of his Delaware home. In fact, OpenSecrets reported that the vice president was almost $1 million in debt in 2014, a time when he was struggling with his son Beau’s cancer diagnosis and seriously considering selling the family home to make ends meet. Even then-President Barack Obama offered him a personal loan to avoid such a fate.
However, Biden’s upper-middle-class struggles from his time in office likely became a distant memory after he began earning more than $200,000 a pop for some of his speaking engagements. Much of the post-vice presidential income the Bidens pulled down in 2017-18 can be attributed to the deal they signed with Flatiron Books for two nonfiction works by Biden and a third co-written with his wife. The deal reportedly was worth $8 million.
Joe Biden’s Background
Joe Biden has committed almost his entire adult life to politics. Biden was born in blue-collar Scranton, Pennsylvania, but moved to Delaware at age 11. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and Syracuse University College of Law in 1968 and then opened his law practice back home in Wilmington, Delaware, but politics awaited. He served on the New Castle County Council from 1970-72. His election to the Senate at age 29 made him the fifth-youngest person ever to serve in the body at that time. He won re-election six times and ultimately became Delaware’s longest-serving senator before leaving to become vice president in 2009.
During his long Senate career, Biden served as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the controversial Clarence Thomas U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing and introduced the Violence Against Women Act in 1990. Biden also ran for president twice. His campaign for the 1988 nomination would be derailed over allegations of plagiarizing a speech and making false claims about his academic record. Biden made another attempt 20 years later in 2008, and while he again failed to secure the nomination, he wound up making the ticket as the vice-presidential candidate under Obama and serving two terms in the White House.
Biden’s life has been marked by great tragedy. Mere weeks after his election to the Senate in 1972, his first wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident that also seriously injured his sons, Hunter and Beau. Decades later, Beau Biden — a veteran of the Iraq War and the attorney general of Delaware — was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died in 2015 at age 46.
Joe Biden’s 2020 Presidential Victory
Biden was confirmed as the Democratic nominee for president in August 2020, the party’s choice to oppose incumbent Donald Trump. Biden ran as a relative moderate who aimed to carry on the political legacy of his former boss, Barack Obama, and to oppose the policies and procedures of the Trump administration. Thanks to a steady economy, Trump was ahead of potential Democratic challengers in polls in late 2019, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit and millions of jobs were lost, the tide turned.
Biden won the 2020 presidential election with 306 Electoral College votes to 232 for Trump, far eclipsing the 270 needed for a win. The Biden administration has had a broad agenda since the president’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20, 2021, which has included controlling the pandemic by immunizing Americans, providing economic relief, advancing racial equity, reforming the immigration system, addressing climate change, improving the nation’s infrastructure and restoring “America’s standing in the world.”
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Last updated: July 21, 2021