Bernie Sanders has an estimated net worth of $3 million. However, some financial insiders speculate that the veteran senator’s assets could total in excess of $5 million.
But who is he, and how has he developed his fortune?
Here, we’ll briefly introduce Bernie Sanders, as well as deliver an overview of his financial history and future investment portfolio.
Who Is Bernie Sanders?
For the last 16 years, Sanders has served as Senator for Vermont. During his political career, he has held many prominent positions, including his role as Mayor of Burlington, which he held until 1989.
In 1990 he was elected to the House of Representatives before eventually joining the United States Senate in 2007. Following his induction into the Senate, Sanders ran two unsuccessful presidential election campaigns in 2016 and 2020, seeking the Democratic Party nomination.
Although his Senate salary sees him bank $174,000 per year, the 81-year-old politician – together with his second wife Jane O’Meara – has many other income streams.
Sanders’ Household Income
After meeting due to Bernie’s successful Burlington Mayoral campaign, Jane has worked closely with her husband in his political career.
While working for her husband in an unofficial capacity for many years, Jane was appointed chief of staff and policy advisor after Bernie was elected to Congress. During those six years, Jane is credited with having written around 50 pieces of legislation.
As the ’90s turned into the 2000s, Jane was offered the role of provost at Goddard College before accepting the presidency of Burlington College.
Due to these prestigious roles in the education system, the overall Sanders’ household income over the last 10 years has increased to nearly $5 million.
Where Does Bernie Sanders’ Wealth Come From?
Flying somewhat in the face of the wider socio-political landscape, despite those two election campaigns, Sanders himself did not come from money.
Born to Polish parents, the senator was raised in lower-middle-class post-war Brooklyn. Both he and his brother have commented in the past about his stay-at-home mother and paint-salesman father’s financial struggles as they were growing up.
When his brother Larry spoke to NPR News in 2015, he revealed about their parents:
“They didn’t know whether they’d have the rent the following month. And I think what Bernard and I took from that is that financial problems are never just financial problems. They enter into people’s lives on very deep and personal levels.”
Although he is widely known for being a self-professed democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders’s net worth has developed into the millions due to investments outside of the political sphere.
What Are Some of Bernie Sanders’ Investments?
When analyzing the route of Sanders’ net worth, the main contributing factors can be attributed to five main areas:
- Real estate
- Best-selling author
- Speaking events
- Government pensions and savings
Real estate investments
The veteran senator has a three-property-strong housing portfolio in locations across the United States. This real estate collection started in 2007 with the $489,000 purchase of a trendy Washington townhouse.
Recent valuations price this property at around $689,000, although other houses in the area have recently sold for upwards of $800,000.
However, that cosmopolitan base is not the family’s primary residence. That honor falls to a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom property in northeastern Vermont, which Bernie purchased in 2009 for $405,000.
This sprawling 2,300-square-foot homestead is now worth around $440,000 – $450,000.
Sanders again added to his growing portfolio in 2016 when he purchased another 4-bed Vermont property outright.
However, this time, he was in the market for a holiday home which he eventually found on the banks of Lake Champlain. The two-story log cabin was priced at around $575,000.
The family home is paid off now, and he has a mortgage of around $350,000 on the D.C. row house. All of which places his portfolio equity at around $1.75 million.
In addition to those investments in bricks and mortar, Sanders has also used his writing talents to grow his fortune. In fact, over his career, he has authored six books.
However, the publication of a particular trio of popular titles had a lot to do with his propulsion into millionaires’ row, which is ironic when you consider the books are chiefly centered around his belief in higher taxes for the rich.
But, up until the point of publishing his first book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, in 2016, it was widely publicized that Sanders was one of the lowest-earning members of the Senate.
While he did write a couple of titles before the 2016 election campaign, the three penned later proved to be much more popular (and lucrative), selling over 270,000 copies between them. Those best-selling publications were:
- Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In – Probably the most popular of Bernie’s books, Our Revolution outlined his 2016 presidential campaign while showcasing a progressive policy agenda. The book rocketed to become a New York Times Best Seller and saw Senator Bernie Sanders embark on a nationwide book tour.
- Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution – The follow-up to Our Revolution, Sanders’ repeated the success of his first major seller by targeting teenage readers. Encouraging them to join the progressive cause in their area by campaigning for changes to economic, social, environmental, and racial agendas to improve wages, develop healthcare options for all, and promote environmentalism.
- Where do we go from here: Two Years in the Resistance – The final title in the successful trio looked back at the time between 2016 and 2018 in the wake of the first couple of years of the Trump administration. Through the book, Sanders delivers a manuscript that vilifies the money in American politics, centering on the grip of billionaire backers on candidates and parties. It suggests the need for a revolution to save the United States’ political system.
These titles didn’t just improve the author’s bank balance. They also set some political movements into action.
Our Revolution and the policies within led to forming an organization by the same name, which aimed to support the election of other progressive left-wing candidates like Tulsi Gabbard, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Away from the political gains of the books, Sanders also benefited financially from their success. His notoriety after the first election loss aided in the titles’ popularity.
To that end, the Vermont Senator collected an advance in the region of $795,000 in 2016 before pocketing another $880,000 in royalties.
Another direct causality of Sanders’ substantial net worth has been his various speaking engagements. The popularity of these events was largely driven by the fame he found following those presidential races and the subsequent book deals.
As we mentioned above, following the release of that first lucrative title, the would-be president set out on a 19-stop book tour around the United States.
However, in the 2016 primaries, where Sanders eventually lost out to Hillary Clinton, the senator took to the podium in New Hampshire to declare he only received just over $1,800 from speaking events that year, adding that he went on to donate those funds to charity.
Sanders would then use the paltry amount to demonstrate that his opponent was under the control of America’s super-wealthy.
The comparatively gargantuan $153 million paid to the Clintons for similar engagements helped push Sanders ahead in the contest before Hillary Clinton eventually beat him by a majority vote.
You would probably associate merch drops more with rock bands than politicians, but this has proven to be another successful marketing route for Sanders.
Over on his website, fans can purchase anything from t-shirts, mugs, and stationery to baby grows, bumper stickers, and posters bearing the “Bernie” brand.
Pensions and savings
The veteran senator has enjoyed a long congressional stint. So it’s safe to assume that, along with his healthy federal government salary of $174,000 a year, much of his estimated wealth has come from frugality and savings.
Those years in politics mean that Sanders is entitled to a yearly pension payment of $73,000 for the rest of his life. This build up a substantial retirement nest egg which is thought to be in the region of $1 million.
A minuscule amount of this fund was paid out to him in 2017. The payment of just over $5,000 was a pension payment following his nine-year hitch as Mayor of Burlington.
Elsewhere, according to financials made public during those presidential campaigns, the Sanders have approximately $500,000 saved up in cash, stocks, and bonds across three retirement policies.
In addition, it’s not unrealistic to assume a savvy saver like Bernie would have been contributing regularly to his Thrift Savings Plan, leaving him a conceivable 401(k) value of well over $1 million.
What Does the Future Hold for Bernie Sanders’ Financial Investments?
Bernie Sanders has always been quite aloof when divulging details of his personal finances due to the nature of his policies. The irony is that, if he’d been able to implement some of his wealth tax statutes, his finances would have been affected.
Political and social opponents have always been quick to level accusations of hypocrisy at the Senator for Vermont. The optics of his bulging bank balance vs. his working-class support campaigning have consistently fuelled debate.
However, even after recently celebrating his 81st birthday, Sanders is showing no signs of slowing down.
That federal government pension, along with the substantial equity in his housing portfolio, offers a significant platform for him to continue funding his political campaigns and charitable donations.
With that in mind, how much is this democratic socialist paying to charities?
How Much Has Sanders Raised for Charity?
Given his socio-economic policies and philanthropic tendencies, you would think Bernie Sanders is a big charitable donor. However, the democratic socialist came under scrutiny in 2019 when he released a decade-worth of tax returns that painted an altogether different picture.
Those financials suggested that Sanders was one of the lowest contributors giving, on average, just 2.26% of his earnings to charity.
As of 2019, his largest donation was $36,000, which was paid in 2017 when the senator’s earnings topped $1.1 million. IRS data showed that Sanders’ donations were below average for his income level.
However, Sanders and his team were quick to quash these stories with a counter-argument that outlined that those records didn’t account for the donations made off the back of his earlier book publications.
Senator Sanders gave up all proceeds from his previous releases and stated that they did not show up on the records because he and his wife do not take tax deductions on those contributions.
More recently, it was revealed that Sanders raised over $1.8 million for charity in 2021. Thanks to a range of merchandise created off the back of the famous meme of him sitting in mittens at President Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
Sweatshirts and other memorabilia were created after pictures of the senator dressed for cool weather at the ceremony went viral.
Sanders’ team confirmed that apparel sales on his website spiked, selling out twice in 30 minutes. Sanders went on to donate the proceeds to various causes.
Bernie Sanders’s net worth conversations will always revolve around the irony of his bank account vs. his policy creation.
But with all that housing equity, an incredibly stable and lucrative federal government pension, alongside his other financial interests, you have to believe that he will continue to grow his bank balance over the next few years.
But it is also important to temper that outlook against his age, as he’s had ample time to build his savings, plus there’s also that below-average charity payment history.
The picture demonstrates that Bernard Sanders is a talented speaker, politician, and author. But he’s also an incredibly savvy saver.