When President Harry Truman left office in 1953, his only source of income was his $112.56 per month pension from the U.S. Army.  He and his wife moved back into their old house in Independence, Missouri, where Truman refused to lobby or join any corporate boards, though there was no shortage of offers.  “I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable,” he wrote, “that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency.”

Five years later, Congress introduced the Former Presidents Act, which established a pension, staff, insurance and secret service protection for all living former presidents, at that time just Truman and Herbert Hoover.  That law has remained, with minor changes, up until modern day, where former presidents receive $207,800 per year on top of the other benefits. 

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