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Rules Every President Is Supposed To Follow After Leaving Office

Updated March 10, 2021 33.1k votes 5.2k voters 402.0k views11 items

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American elected officials have to follow specific standards, and even the rules for former presidents are strict. Some policies ensure the safety of former presidents; others maintain a level of governmental transparency and diplomacy.

Many of the things ex-presidents do are rooted in historical necessity. For instance, when Harry Truman left office in 1953, he and former First Lady Bess Truman were penniless. Lawmakers passed the Former Presidents Act in 1958 to provide for Truman and every POTUS after him. Since then, the act has been revised to include additional guidelines, serving as a rubric for every former commander-in-chief.

  • Photo: Paul Morse / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    They Receive A Transition Stipend After Leaving Office

    For six months after the end of their presidential term, former heads of state receive funding for business affairs and government matters. The money is supposed to help with the transition process, and even presidents who resign are given this stipend.

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  • Photo: Gray wolf / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    They Must Establish A Presidential Library

    Passed in 1955, the Presidential Libraries Act encourages former presidents to donate their presidential papers and any other historical materials to establish an official library. Their actions are supposed to be a public service for the nation.

    Presidents typically open their libraries to the public, and many choose to be buried on the premises.

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  • Photo: Reagan Library / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    They Can Keep Their Government Health Benefits

    All former presidents, as well as their spouses and underage children, are entitled to treatment at military hospitals. As former federal employees, many presidents are also eligible to receive government healthcare. Alternatively, they can pay for private insurance plans, but the government does not cover those costs.

    Only former federal employees that worked for the government for at least five years qualify for government health benefits. Therefore, only two-term presidents are eligible. Jimmy Carter can't receive federal health coverage, but George W. Bush can.

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    They Receive A Pension After Leaving Office

    Former presidents receive a lifetime pension after leaving the White House. The Former Presidents Act established this practice to "maintain the dignity of the Office of the President." The fund includes an annual salary of nearly $208,000 as of 2017. 

    The former leaders also receive an annual sum of $150,000 for about two years after their presidency to employ a private staff. After that, the rate goes down to $96,000.

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