Millions of retirees would love that interest rate. P.S. Kamala is much richer than he is.
Those looking for a shock in the presidential taxes need to dig a little deeper below the surface this year. Joe Biden’s biggest overt scandal is failing to put his money to work.
He and Jill brought in a healthy $607,000 in 2020, largely from his retirement vehicles and her paid public appearances before moving to the White House.
While it’s a big number for most households, the income looks small for the presidency after a few decades of Nobel prizes, huge book deals, sprawling foundations and family trusts.
Even adding the presidential salary is unlikely to move the needle much beyond $1 million, even assuming the Bidens don’t simply donate the money because they don’t need it.
They don’t need the money. What’s shocking about this tax return is how passive it is. If the Bidens wanted to boost their net worth, they’re either hiding it too well or doing it wrong.
An Astounding Cash Rate
The disclosures suggest minimal investment accounts . . . no significant IRAs or brokerage assets . . . balanced by up to $1.8 million in cash.
If not for that disclosure, I’d think the actual cash position is more like triple that figure. Somehow the Bidens squeezed $5,930 out of their bank accounts last year.
You can do the math. To earn that much interest after bank rates collapsed in the pandemic, a notional $1.8 million cash position would need to earn an effective 0.3% last year.
The Senate credit union where the Bidens seem to have parked most of their money currently offers no more than 0.07% on MMAs. Even if the peripheral accounts are in ultra-long-term CDs paying real percentage points, they’re unlikely to move the overall needle that far.
Either way, that much cash sitting there doing close to nothing is effectively fiscal malpractice if you want it to keep up with inflation, much less provide a legacy for future generations.
Remember, there are no real investment accounts in the mix. If Jill wanted to stop giving speeches, the nest egg would need to step up to fund their retirement.
The Bidens got almost $200,000 last year from government pensions and another $63,000 from annuities. (They use Voya, by the way.)
He’s also taking Social Security. All in all, that’s evidently enough for them. But all that income is also guaranteed, making this an ultra-conservative strategy without needing all that cash to tide them over in the case of a prolonged market slump.
The annuities will only have a bad decade if Voya goes under. The pensions will only stop if the federal government fails. In that doomsday scenario, there’s no real point in carrying enough cash to last for years.
My math says those annuities probably cost at least $6 million and they’re fresh as of 2020.
Was that smart? While he was “only” 73 when he left the White House in 2016, she won’t be 70 for another few weeks. She could go on cashing spousal benefits for decades to come, so they evidently felt the security was good.
Otherwise, the notion of cashing out a healthy retirement portfolio for lifetime income doesn’t work well when you might only end up with a few annual checks and then nothing to hand your heirs.
This isn’t an estate planner’s dream. Maybe there’s substantial life insurance for the kids and grandkids.
From prevailing tax rates, the house has been appraised at roughly $1.1 million and then the family can split what cash remains in the accounts when the Bidens are gone.
Again, by mass affluent standards, that’s successful enough. For the presidency, it feels simplistic, too small to even trigger the estate tax.
Unless there’s vast treasure hidden in Jill’s S-Corp (these are Delaware people), the advisors simply aren’t working hard enough to make the Bidens money.
The S-Corps are a nice touch, though. We’ll see if they preserve their favored tax status in the next few years.
Where Did The Money Go?
That said, the historical returns show substantial post-2016 income that needs to be addressed. Joe earned at least $20 million between 2017 and 2019.
At a glance, buying the annuities last year ate a big chunk of that post-tax cash. But there isn’t a huge cash drawdown on the returns to reflect that massive transaction.
Delaware accountants smart enough to set up corporations for personal income are smart enough to at least suggest good places to hide it.
Joe’s company, CelticCapri, holds his copyrights and processes his speaking fees. It’s currently appraised as holding less than $15,000 in assets.
Someone with more free time than I have might figure it all out. Joe’s Venmo transactions recently came to light. Maybe the Bidens simply lived large after the vice presidency and have scaled back now that they’re back in government.
Speaking of the vice presidency, Kamala Harris and her husband have a much more traditional professional portfolio: stocks, retirement accounts, the usual HNW apparatus.
They’re a lot younger and more plugged into the modern financial system. They’ve got at least $3 million between them.