It took Mike Pence nearly two decades of government service to become a millionaire on taxpayers’ dime through his state and federal pensions in 2019–and less than three years to quadruple his fortune as a public speaker, writer and consultant after leaving the vice presidency in January 2021. The 64-year-old darling of conservative evangelicals, who published his memoir “So Help Me God” last November, is wealthier (and more liquid) than he’s ever been, worth an estimated $4 million, according to Forbes’ estimates.
From the start of 2022 to June 2023, Pence generated $3.4 million by delivering 32 paid speeches, talking to a variety of groups, including an international peace organization, an oil and gas group and a smattering of universities. He collected another $1.4 million in advance payments for his book over the same period. His wife, Karen, received $75,000 in advance payments for her book, “When It’s Your Turn To Serve.” The Pences used some of their newfound cash to enjoy life outside of the White House, paying $1.9 million for a home in Indiana. But they saved plenty, too, buying stock in blue-chip names like Apple, Pfizer, Chevron and Lockheed Martin, before concentrating their portfolio in broad-based funds as a presidential run approached.
The son of a Korean War veteran who helped build Kiel Bros. Oil Co., an Indiana gas station and convenience store chain with more than 200 locations at its peak, Mike Pence graduated from Indiana University’s law school in 1986. He passed on a job at his family’s business, instead mounting unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1988 and 1990 and briefly working at a small law firm. Pence’s second congressional campaign erupted in scandal after he used political donations to cover a mortgage, credit card and grocery bills. “I’m not embarrassed that I need to make a living,” he told the press at the time. Such personal spending was legal then (though it has since been banned) but proved unpopular with voters.
Over the next decade, Pence reinvented himself as a local radio star, billed as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf,” making him a minor celebrity in the conservative Midwest and helping propel him into Congress on his third attempt in 2000. Still, the U.S. representative from Indiana remained one the Capitol’s poorer members, with few assets to his name besides stock in his family’s Kiel Bros.—worth somewhere between $200,000 and $450,000, according to a financial disclosure report he filed with the federal government in 2004. The company, which his brother Greg had taken over, filed for bankruptcy the next year.
Pence had a safety net. In 2006, he hit his fifth year of federal service, making him eligible for the especially generous retirement package afforded to members of Congress and their staffers. In 2012, Pence voted to scale back such retirement packages for future congressmen, but a grandfather clause written into the new legislation left his pension, and those of older lawmakers, untouched. “They’re almost twice as valuable as a regular federal pension,” Tim Voit, a financial analyst who runs a firm specializing in pensions told Forbes in 2019. “Congress passes laws for their own benefit, and they’ll never shortchange themselves.”
Between the 12 years Pence served in the House through 2012 and his four years as vice president beginning in 2017, he is currently eligible to collect an estimated $62,750 per year from the federal government for the rest of his life. If he were able to sell that annuity today, he could get about $620,000 for it, down only slightly from around $700,000 in 2019, with two years of additional service as vice president offset by the impact of interest rate hikes.
Then there’s Pence’s state pension, the result of his four years as governor of Indiana through 2016, which entitles him to 40% of his final salary of $112,000 for the rest of his life. That’s assuming Pence, who received a salary of $230,700 during each of his four years as vice president before really raking it in as a private citizen, waits to start drawing benefits until he turns 65 next year. The Indiana pension is worth an estimated $430,000 today–down only slightly from a half million or so in 2019. A spokesperson for Pence did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Pence’s pensions are still worth a lot to the former vice president, accounting for nearly a quarter of his estimated $4 million fortune, or $1.1 million combined. But they’re not his only real assets anymore. The millions he earned writing, speaking and consulting after leaving the White House likely helped Pence pay off the five student loans he received to help put his three children through college, which had somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 of principal remaining on them when he departed the White House, according to a financial disclosure he filed in January 2021.
Pence’s recent cash infusion will also make it easier to pay down the $1.5 million mortgage he took out to purchase a five-acre estate in his hometown of Columbus, Indiana shortly after leaving the vice president’s official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in January 2021. Forbes estimates that Pence’s new property, apparently the first he has owned since moving into the Indiana Governor’s Mansion in 2013, is now worth $1 million, after deducting the remaining balance on his 30-year mortgage.
Pence also owns shares in four mutual funds worth between $95,000 and $250,000 combined through his 401(k) plan at Hoosier Heartland LLC, the entity through which he conducts his speaking, writing and consulting. Hoosier Heartland has paid him $381,000 in salary since the beginning of 2022, according to his most recent financial disclosure. Two of his larger holdings today are a money market account and a Fidelity index fund that tracks the broader market, in which he has somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million apiece. To top things off, Pence has a life insurance policy valued somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000, and as much as $15,000 of cash in the bank.
The last two and a half years as a private citizen have been far more lucrative for Pence than his 20 years in public service. But he could make even more in the wake of a presidency, if he’s able to upset both his former boss, Donald Trump, and the man whose election he certified, Joe Biden.