Bernie Sanders is the politician for the 99 percent because he’s been there himself, dealing with poverty and going through times when he could barely make ends meet. Just in February alone, he raised more than $40 million for his campaign and the number has climbed significantly since then. Most of his donations come from small donors who give less than $200. He’s definitely not one of the richest people in Congress, but just how much is he worth? The question has become even more relevant since he kept his debate promise and released his full tax return form for 2014, including itemized deductions and expenses. His income for 2014 was less than Hillary Clinton has made for just one of her speeches at some venues.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. He Has a Net Worth of About $300,000, Making Him One of the Poorest of the Presidential Candidates
Bernie Sanders’ public disclosures place his net worth at between $194,026 and $741,030, Politico reported. Some media sources just take the highest number and report his net worth at $700,00, but this is inaccurate. The total is likely around $300,00, since as early as 2013 he had an estimated net worth of $330,000, NPR reported. This is far below most members of Congress, where the median net worth in 2013 was $1 million. In the Senate, the median was $2.8 million.
Compared to other political candidates, Sanders also ranks low. Hillary and Bill Clinton made more than $25 million in the first half of 2014 just from speaking engagements. According to USA Today, Donald Trump’s net worth is between $2.9 and $10 billion, Hillary Clinton’s is $15.3 to $55 million, and Ted Cruz is $1.7 to $4.5 million. Marco Rubio has the net worth closest to his, at somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000.
Joe Biden isn’t running, but he referred to himself in the past as the poorest man in Congress. His net worth is somewhere between $39,000 and $800,000.
2. Sanders Struggled When He Was Younger, Even Having His Electricity Turned Off at One Point
Sanders struggled with money for most of his life, which is likely why he relates so well with the “have-nots” and is a champion for the poor. When he was 23, he and his first wife, Deborah Sanders, lived in a property that was a “maple sugar shack” with a dirt floor, Politico reported.
He had many varied jobs before moving into politics. He worked as an aide at a psychiatric hospital in New York and taught preschoolers for Head Start. He had a job registering people for food stamps with a non-profit. In the 1970s, he lived in a small duplex with his son, of whom he shared custody, and sometimes worked as a carpenter. Friends told Politico that the home was sparse and “stark and dark.” One friend said, “The electricity was turned off a lot. I remember him running an extension cord down to the basement. He couldn’t pay his bills.” In 1971, Sanders received unemployment benefits for a few months.
He also worked quite a bit as a freelance writer for local publications, ranging from a low-budget paper to an alternative weekly and a glossy state magazine. Friends said he was “always poor” and “just one step above hand to mouth.” He even made low-budget films for awhile about people and events in Vermont.
A meme began circulating in February, called the Bernie Sanders Loser Meme, that said he was a loser for having a low net worth and living off welfare for a time. But Snopes disputed the meme, pointing out that he worked hard even if he didn’t have an official “9-to-5” job. In fact, Sanders spent most of his free time campaigning, working for what he was most passionate about — helping the less fortunate, even to his own detriment.
3. Most of His Income Comes from His Salary as Senator, And He Donated Royalties From His Book to Charity
Most of Sanders’ income has, now and historically, come from his political jobs. When he was elected mayor in 1981, the salary of $33,800 was more than he had ever made, Politico reported. In 2014, his household took in more than $205,000, paying nearly $28,000 in taxes. Most of this is from his Senator salary of $174,000. He also receives a yearly pension of $5,000 from his time as Burlington mayor.
Some of his income comes from investment funds. Sanders also receives royalties from his book, “The Speech,” but he donates all of these to charity. In 2011 and 2012, he made $26,000 in royalties from his book and donated it all to charity.
4. Sanders Owns Two Homes, One Which Serves as a Rental Property, And Has Thousands in Credit Card Debt
Sanders may own two homes, but he also has a lot of debt. He has between $25,002 and $65,000 in credit card debt on Visa cards, Politico reported. These have interest rates of 8.5 and 10.25 percent, and they are from Congressional and Senate credit unions.
He has two homes, a joint rental property in Burlington and a condo in Washington, D.C. The rental property earned him $5,001 to $15,000 in income in 2012. Meanwhile, he’s had the D.C. condo since 2000 and it has a 30-year mortgage of $50,001 to $100,000. He’s definitely not living lavishly.
5. He Grew Up Poor, With His Parents Often Arguing Over Money
Bernie Sanders didn’t grow up with money. He grew up hearing his parents argue about money all the time, Politico reported. He mother was a homemaker and his dad sold paint. Sadly, by the time he was 22, both his parents had died. Sanders said:
I learned what havoc and pain is caused by the constant worry over money. People who come from money sometimes don’t understand that anxiety.”