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Why People Care About Donald Trump’s Net Worth

There is no denying that Donald Trump is a wealthy, successful businessman owning many valuable assets and businesses, but throughout the 2016 presidential campaign questions have been raised about his true net worth.

Donald Trump claims that he is worth “in excess of 10 billion [dollars].” However, an article in Forbes disagrees, “Trump’s wealth pegs his fortune at $3.7 billion, down $800 million from a year ago.” Why is there such a difference in estimates for his net worth? How are these estimates calculated, and why do we obsess over his net worth?

To calculate someone’s net worth, simply add up all possible assets and then subtract total debts.  Most people can just sum up an estimate of the value of all their possessions, investments and cash and then subtract any debts they have, including credit card balances and student loans. This gives them a reasonable estimate of their net worth, which is often a good measure of someone’s financial security.

An article in Forbes breaks down Trump’s net worth into 28 distinct assets he owns and subtracts the debts he has on those assets. Most of his wealth comes from real estate, where he is well-known for making his fortune. While the Forbes estimate does a good job of finding the value of his real-estate properties, it doesn’t account for the amount of money generated from the Trump brand name. It is also much harder to determine Trump’s net worth since he has not released any tax statements.

Trump’s estimates may not be correct either. He has claimed that his estimates for his net worth change based on how he is feeling. That just is not rational.

The difference between $4 billion and $10 billion seems large, but either way Trump is still much more well-off than most. So, why then do people even care about Trump’s net worth in the first place?

Well, his exaggeration of his net worth resembles his campaign strategy: propose grandiose ways to solve problems and use figures that sound good to the American public. His strategy focuses on highlighting his own business experience, and his success of becoming a billionaire. His penchant for the large is clearly demonstrated in his proposed 1000-mile long wall. “I think the height could be 35 to 45 feet…Could be higher,” he claims. Through hyperbole, he aims to create an impression that he is better or should be held to a higher standard than others. Many people couldn’t even dream of becoming a billionaire, and thus are intrigued by Trump when he makes claims about his high net worth.

The mysteriousness surrounding his actual net worth also makes people wonder about it. It is unlikely he will release his tax returns even though most politicians, especially those running for president, do. A Morning Consult poll showed that people were also unsure of what Trump’s net worth was. The table below shows their estimates for his net worth:


Trump has tweeted, “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.” So, the more money Trump has the better he feels about himself. In a political battle, however, a candidate’s net worth doesn’t change the result of the election. What matters is their political platforms and public image.

(Trump Tower, Chicago, IL. Credit: Daniel Huizinga.)

(Trump Tower, Chicago, IL. Credit: Daniel Huizinga.)

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