Does it pay to be the First Lady? Good question. Jill Biden, just like Melania Trump before her, has no choice but to accept the role. But does the First Lady get a salary?

America’s new First Lady, Jill Biden, will make history

Jill Biden will soon make history as the first First Lady to have a job while in the White House. 

She previously served as Second Lady during Obama’s presidency, during which time she kept her job as a teacher of English and writing. 

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to Vietnamese students in Can Giuoc district, Long An province on December 9, 2019. – Michelle Obama and Julia Roberts visit to promote girls’ education in Vietnam. (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP) (Photo by NHAC NGUYEN/AFP via Getty Images)

But previous First Ladies haven’t held down jobs alongside their presidency-related duties. As a result, many curious Americans (and non-Americans) are asking: does a First Lady get a salary from the federal government?

Does the First Lady get a salary?

No, the First Lady does not receive compensation by the federal government for fulfilling the role. But First Ladies do get other benefits, such as a budget for their activities.

Rather than receive remuneration for the position, the FLOTUS receives an annual budget. This pays for staff and covers transportation and lodging expenses. 

Despite not having an elected role – this explains why they don’t receive money from the government – the First Lady of a given administration has a highly visible position in American society. She is effectively “on duty” 24 hours a day.

Causes championed by previous First Ladies include children’s education and health (Melania Trump), education more broadly (Laura Bush) and physical and mental health (Michelle Obama).

President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush (Photo by �� Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, will become the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) on her husband’s inauguration, set for 20 January 2020.

A First Lady cannot refuse the role, and this has come with some serious financial sacrifices in recent presidential history. Michelle Obama gave up a hefty $212,000 salary as a hospital executive. Hillary Clinton had to leave her partnership at the Rose Law Film.

What does a First Lady actually do?

Historian Jean H Baker describes being a First Lady as a “full-time, all-consuming job”. Duties include running the household, promoting causes internationally and domestically, and advising the president.

Ronald Reagan said in a 1982 interview: “You know, with the First Lady, the government gets an employee free! They have her just about as busy as they have me.”

UNDATED: (FILE PHOTO) Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan share a moment in this undated file photo. Reagan turns 93 on February 6, 2004.(Photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidental Library/Getty Images)

Salary estimator and software company Salary.com calculated a “hybrid job compensation estimate” for the role of First Lady, valuing the post at $173,500. 

According to the analysis, the hybrid job synthesises roles such as “non-profit programme executive”, “secretary to the chief executive” and “interior designer” to determine the hypothetical salary of the First Lady of the US.

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