Bernie Sanders’ net worth now makes him a millionaire thanks to his best-selling books. But Bernie Sanders came from hard times and hasn’t forgotten them, even while he’s running to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. He’s still a 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. Here’s what you need to know about Sanders’ net worth.
1. Bernie Sanders’ Net Worth in 2019 Is $2.5 Million, But That’s Not Part of the Top 1 Percent
Sanders is now estimated to have a net worth of $2.5 million, Forbes reported. His net worth has increased thanks to earnings from three best-selling books. He has made at least $1.7 million from those books. This does not qualify him for the top 1 percent, however, Slate pointed out. You must have a net worth greater than $10 million to be in the top 1 percent.
He also has a government salary and pension. His current salary is $174,000, Forbes noted.
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. He’s come a long way since then.
2. He Struggled for Much of His Adult Life & Even Had His Electricity Turned Off Once
Sanders struggled to make ends meet much of his adult life. 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 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 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 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.
Snopes once pointed out that even if he didn’t have an official “9-to-5” job, 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. He & His Wife Jane Paid for a Four-Bedroom Vacation Home After Selling Her Share in Her Family’s Home
Much of his net worth also comes from his property. He and his wife, Jane Sanders, own three homes: one in Burlington, Vermont, one in Washington, D.C. where he works, and then a third vacation home they purchased in 2016. Sanders came under fire for this third home, but they bought it out of money from selling a family home that Jane had inherited. Most Congressmen have two homes: one in their home state and one in D.C.
Jane told Burlington Free Press that she and Bernie paid $575,000 in cash for the four-bedroom home on Lake Champlain shore. She said that she sold her share in her family’s vacation home in Maine to her brother, which helped pay for the house. She said they also used money from their retirement account and money from a book advance that Bernie received to pay for the vacation home.
Bernie’s had the D.C. condo since 2000 and it has a 30-year mortgage of $50,001 to $100,000, Politico reported in 2016.
In the 1990s, with financial prospects being difficult, Bernie and Jane refinanced their only home twice, Politico reported. Then in 2000, they bought their first “second” home: a condominium in Burlington for Jane’s elderly mom. In 2009, Bernie’s net worth was $105,000 in the midst of a crashing market. He and Jane used a $324,000 mortgage in Burlington to upgrade to a $405,000 four-bedroom home in Burlington. They bought the house from Jane’s son David and his wife. In 2012, David and his wife bought Jane and Bernie’s other home for $265,000 because David wanted to live in his childhood home. (They essentially swapped homes, Politico explained.) Jane and Bernie refinanced their home in 2013.
4. In 2016, His Net Worth of $200,000 to $740,000 Made Him One of the Poorest of the Presidential Candidates
Bernie Sanders’ public disclosures in 2016 placed his net worth at between $194,026 and $741,030, Politico reported. The total was likely around $300,000, 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.
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 was between $2.9 and $10 billion in 2016, and Hillary Clinton’s was $15.3 to $55 million, while Ted Cruz was $1.7 to $4.5 million.
He had between $25,002 and $65,000 in credit card debt on Visa cards in 2016, Politico reported. These had interest rates of 8.5 and 10.25 percent, and they are from Congressional and Senate credit unions.
5. His Current Net Worth Doesn’t Conflict with Democratic Socialism
Some have said that someone with socialist beliefs shouldn’t be a millionaire. But technically Sanders is running on a democratic socialist platform, which means he’s advocating for more safety nets and is focusing on finishing the plan that FDR started. He doesn’t advocate that people should never be rich or own property, but simply that they should also pay their fair share in taxes. Despite being a millionaire now, he’s still advocating higher taxes on the top percentage of earners in America. You can learn more about what Sanders means when he refers to democratic socialism in his video below.
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.”
Sanders grew up in a rent-controlled apartment. His mother always dreamed of owning her own home, but died when he was 18 before that dream could be a reality.
Slate pointed out that Sanders’ ideal social democracy is similar to countries like Scandinavia, where people can still earn a lot of money for their success (such as authoring a book), but they’ll be taxed more also. Sanders is still advocating for those higher taxes, even though his earnings would now place him in that higher tax bracket. He hasn’t changed his tune now that he’s making more money.