It’s always been difficult to see into Trump’s secret finances. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons that when he first decided to enter the race for the presidency, people didn’t believe it.
Given that the Federal Election Commission requires all presidential candidates disclose their net financial worth within 30 days of nominating, many thought that perhaps the Donald would want to guard this secret, more than he would want to have a run at the presidency.
They were proven wrong.
What they weren’t wrong about however, was that it’s still pretty unclear how much Trump is worth, or how much he should be worth.
Releasing a declaration of his assets in his bid for the Republican nomination, Trump declared his net worth to be approximately $9 billion USD. While this valuation is roughly double some of the lower estimates of his worth, Trump has frequently ascribed this to a desire to humiliate the famous billionaire.
Speaking to Forbes, one of the magazines that valued him at less than half of what he himself estimated, he argued that they treated him differently to other millionaires “Because I’m famous, and they (other billionaires) are not”.
So what exactly are his assets and what are they worth?
If we take a look at the Forbes analysis, we see a slew of hotels and properties in Trump’s NYC portfolio, ranging from the iconic Trump Towers, to his Wall Street and Park Avenue properties. These come in at a grand total of over $2.1 billion USD.
After this, comes a string of golf courses that criss-cross the country (as well as Scotland and Ireland), a range of different toys including helicopters, a Boeing 757, his own perfume line and even an energy drink brand. Looking at these assets, what we see is that Trump certainly has a diverse portfolio. But it’s one that no one can quite seem to value.
And so, as with many things Trump, to find the truth we need to look beyond his words. And looking beyond his words, what we find is that a great deal of his wealth may have in fact been the product of downright good luck.
Given that the Donald inherited what some have estimated to have been upwards of $40 million from his father in the mid 1970s, were he to simply have invested this significant sum in the S&P500, it’s estimated that he would have generated a fortune similar to that which he currently holds (anywhere between $2.3 and more than $3 billion USD).
In fact, how significant his fortune would have been, depends on exactly how much he received and when. It also of course, depends on the timing and manner in which he might have invested his finances.
Now there are a couple of important remarks to make on behalf of this recidivist bankruptcy claimant. For example, most of the calculations of his expected investment fortune assume that he invests his entire inheritance and doesn’t spend any of it.
Considering he’s always led a rather lavish lifestyle, and that he is for example, currently financing his own bid for the Presidency, this assumption is unrealistic. Moreover, the market itself is not something that many have blindly invested and reinvested in over a 40-year time horizon. The main point being that the S&P as we know it only opened a year after his inheritance was given to him.
So what was he supposed to do for the first year of his inheritance?
Moreover, many valuations of his fortune are a fair amount higher than the $2.9 billion estimated by Bloomberg, or the larger sum given by Forbes. These estimates try to account for intangible assets. With a chain of hotels licensed throughout the world, and branding across products as diverse as mattresses and cofee, it’s clear that the Trump name trades at a premium. And with a presidential bid currently in the pipeline, it’s almost impossible to know how this brand will develop over time.
Yet despite these important caveats, one thing seems clear. Given any estimate of the fortune Trump inherited, it seems fairly obvious that he had a nice head start in life. Not only this, but it’s also highly likely that this head start got him the vast majority of the way towards where he is today.
Indeed, Trump may have outperformed the S&P. And that’s no mean feat.
But for a man touting his business credentials as reason enough to vote for him, the fact that compound interest could have generated the vast majority of his fortune today seems to indicate that he alone, played a very small role in creating the wealth that he now proudly boasts of.
This isn’t reason enough to cast your vote for someone else. His innumerable racist, horrific, slanderous and sexist statements should provide enough motivation for this. Yet if you were thinking about voting for Trump on the grounds that “at least he’s got the kind of business mind that America can benefit from”, I’d have to say don’t.
He probably doesn’t.