Donald Trump takes tremendous pride in being rich. Just ask him.
“I’m really rich,” he said in his presidential announcement speech back in 2015.
Which is still true! But, according to the newly-released rankings from Forbes magazine, Trump is no longer one of the 400 richest people in America. It’s the first time in more than two decades that Trump has not made the Forbes 400.
Trump, with a net worth of $2.5 billion, missed making the list by roughly $400 million. His net worth is the same as last year, according to Forbes, but a significant come down from where he was at the start of his presidency. In 2016, Trump was worth $3.7 billion, according to Forbes. That dropped to $3.1 billion in 2017 and held there for 2018 and 2019.
Who’s to blame for Trump falling off the list? Forbes says Trump should look in the mirror. Wrote the magazine’s Dan Alexander:
“If Trump is looking for someone to blame, he can start with himself. Five years ago, he had a golden opportunity to diversify his fortune. Fresh off the 2016 election, federal ethics officials were pushing Trump to divest his real estate assets. That would have allowed him to reinvest the proceeds into broad-based index funds and assume office free of conflicts of interest … Trump decided to hang onto his assets.”
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Falling off the Forbes list will land hard on Trump, who cares deeply about these sorts of ratings and rankings as public-facing proof of his many successes.
This, from Jonathan Greenberg, a one-time reporter for Forbes, makes clear how much Trump cares:
“In May 1984, an official from the Trump Organization called to tell me how rich Donald J. Trump was. I was reporting for the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual ranking of America’s richest people, for the third year. In the previous edition, we’d valued Trump’s holdings at $200 million, only one-fifth of what he claimed to own in our interviews. This time, his aide urged me on the phone, I needed to understand just how loaded Trump really was.
In fact, Trump’s wealth — and the promise that he could make every American rich — was at the center of his 2016 pitch. In the same speech in which he proclaimed that he was “really rich,” Trump said this while waving a document around:
“I have assets — big accounting firm, one of the most highly respected — 9 billion 240 million dollars. So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well over $10 billion. But here, a total net worth of — net worth, not assets, not — a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets — Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York — many other places all over the world. So the total is $8,737,540,00.”
Trump’s net worth, as documented by Forbes, has always been considerably less than he claimed publicly — although no one disputes that he is wealthy.
How rich Trump actually is more than just a theoretical argument. As The New York Times documented after obtaining two decades worth of Trump’s tax returns, the businessman has major debts coming due in the next few years. (Trump, breaking tradition, never released any of his tax returns either during his run for president or when serving in office.)
As the Times wrote of Trump in September 2020:
“He appears to have paid off none of the principal of the Trump Tower mortgage, and the full $100 million comes due in 2022. And if he loses his dispute with the I.R.S. over the 2010 refund, he could owe the government more than $100 million (including interest on the original amount)…He appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421 million, most of which is coming due within four years.”
Trump’s financial situation could well be the X factor as he decides on whether to run for president again in 2024. If his finances are perilous, he may not be in a position to mount a second bid. Or maybe he would do so in hopes of staying relevant — and attractive to potential clients and businesses.
Either way, the story of how rich Trump is — and how much he owes (and to whom) — isn’t going away anytime soon.