Trump falls off Forbes list of richest Americans for the first time in a quarter century

Worth only $2.5 billion, the former president falls $400 million short of this year's cutoff

Published October 5, 2021 10:40AM (EDT)

 (Getty/NosUA/Ron Sachs - Pool/Salon)
(Getty/NosUA/Ron Sachs - Pool/Salon)

Donald Trump has always prided himself on his expertise in running a successful business. On the 2016 campaign trail, he promised to run the country in the same way. Now a series of poor, and perhaps unethical, business decisions have caused him to be booted out of the exclusive list of wealthiest Americans for the first time in a quarter of a century, according to Forbes.

This year's cutoff for the list was higher than ever: a whopping $2.9 billion. Trump, however, is only worth $2.5 billion, leaving him $400 million shy of the mark, Forbes reported on Tuesday. So, what happened? The magazine claims that the former president only has himself to blame.

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Holding a spot in the top half of the list from 1976 to 2016, for the past five years since taking office Trump's ranking on the list fell steadily, dropping to no. 339 just last year, wrote Forbes. But, since the start of the pandemic, the real estate magnate has lost about $600 million. At a time where tech is booming and the real estate market is on shaky ground, Trump's holdings have left him in a weakened financial position.

But it didn't have to be that way.

Following his election in 2016, Trump was urged by federal ethics officials to divest from his real estate holdings, which at the time were worth an estimated $3.5 billion. He could have put the money into index funds and other forms of investment, such as the S&P 500, freeing himself from conflict of interest – and possibly doubling his wealth, said Forbes. According to their calculations, had he done so, he could have been the 133rd-richest person in the country.

Instead of doubling his wealth, the former president doubled down.

"I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to," Trump said to a group of reporters in early 2017, prior to taking office. And that's what he did. Ignoring ethical and financial advice, Trump held tightly to his assets, and lost his spot on the Forbes 400.

But Trump wasn't the only one to drop off the list. Start-ups and up-and-coming entrepreneurs are pumping up the wealth and kicking established figures, like Oprah Winfrey, out of the club. Among the 51 business moguls losing their spot on the list, 31 are still wealthier than they were last year. 

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As the economic impact of the pandemic has hit hard for many, the rich still only seem to be getting richer.

"The members' collective fortune rose a massive 40% over the last year to $4.5 trillion, up from $3.2 trillion," reported Forbes. "Nearly all are richer than they were a year ago. The top 20 on the list are together worth a stunning $1.8 trillion."

Amazon founder and current chairman of the online retailer, Jeff Bezos, tops the list at $201 billion, followed closely by the Tesla mastermind, Elon Musk, at $190.5 billion.

By Rocio Fabbro

Rocio Fabbro is an Editorial Intern with Salon's News & Politics desk and an undergraduate student at New York University. Follow her on Twitter @rociofabbro.

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Donald Trump Forbes Forbes 400 List Of Richest Americans Investment Wealth