Former President Jimmy Carter says that he never wanted to be rich, and that shows in every part of the quiet, simple life he lives with his wife Rosalynn in their $167,000 two-bedroom rancher in Georgia.
Carter, who is 93, is the only modern president to live full-time in the house he lived in before he became president. He is also the only president who saves taxpayers money. Carter’s pensions, office, staff, and other costs cost the government $456,000 in the current fiscal year. This is less than half of the $952,000 budgeted for George H.W. Bush and the $1 million budgeted for Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Carter’s simple life in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, is the subject of a new Washington Post profile called “The un-celebrity president.” The profile begins with a description of a typical Saturday night dinner for Carter and his wife of 72 years, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 90.
The former first couple walked a half mile to their friend Jill Stuckey’s house, where they ate salmon and broccoli casserole on paper plates and drank “bargain-brand chardonnay.”
The couple has become used to having a quiet dinner with their neighbor every Saturday night. On these nights, the three Secret Service agents waiting outside the back door to walk them home are the only sign that the Carters haven’t always lived this simple, small-town life.
Three years after being diagnosed with melanoma on his liver and brain, the former president is now cancer-free. He told the Post that he enjoys spending time in his study, swimming in the pool, and sometimes building furniture and painting in the garage. His wife, on the other hand, likes to do tai chi and meditate in the morning.
After making their own yogurt in the morning, the couple often spends the afternoons in their $167,000 two-bedroom rancher watching Atlanta Braves games or Law and Order.
The Democratic former president, who only served one term, chose not to join corporate boards or get paid as a public speaker, unlike his successors, because “he didn’t want to make money off of being in the White House.”
The Carters now get money from his many books and from the $210,700 annual pension that all former presidents get.
They are frugal in places where they could be wasteful.
While some people fly by private jet, the Carters take a commercial flight.
All former presidents have an office paid for by the federal government. The Post says that Carter’s, which is in the Carter Center in Atlanta, is the least expensive at $115,000. And instead of building an office with living space, which would have been more expensive, the Carters chose to sleep on a pullout couch for a week every month until recently, when they had a Murphy bed put in.
Carter said, “I hope so,” when asked if he thought another ex-president would ever live like he does. But I’m not sure.”