The top Democratic candidates have revealed a bit of who they are in the way they handle their own money.
If eyes are windows to the soul, are investments the key to understanding a potential president? After all, where you choose to stake your money says — at least — something about you.
When Donald Trump ran, he had put most big recent investments into golf courses — Trump is, if nothing else, a golfer devoted to hanging with other older white men. Policy followed more predictably from that than many acknowledge.
What about his challengers? I looked at financial-disclosure forms for Democratic presidential candidates to take their measure.
Some are funny: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee only owns stock in Washington-based companies, so he’s having a big 2019 with Amazon AMZN, -0.89% , Expedia EXPE, -0.90% , and Costco Wholesale COST, +0.32% with no financial analysis at all.
Most candidates have too much of their money in cash, earning little. Other than Rep. John Delaney (richest of the bunch after selling two companies), Sen. Elizabeth Warren and maybe Sen. Kamala Harris, they don’t look like people who confidently handle their own assets.
Here’s what I found about the Dems’ top five.
Worth: $2.14 million to $7.92 million
Conclusion: Sucker for a sales pitch.
“Middle Class Joe” reported his net worth, in the broad ranges that Senate disclosure forms use, as possibly negative in 2006. But he and his wife have made $15.6 million since he left the vice presidency in 2017, so he’s moving up in the world.
Still, Biden has no fewer than six whole-life insurance policies — an investment that financial professionals knock for simultaneously delivering expensive coverage and a low-return path to cash value.
Biden’s recent disclosures reflect the flood of his new money. He has at least $570,000 and as much as nearly $1.2 million in banked cash — poor guy can’t place it fast enough.
He also a dozen mutual funds — spanning everything from technology and health care to junk bonds. His portfolio has both growth and value, high cap, mid cap and small cap. They all commanded about the same amount — together, less than a third as much as his cash — establishing no clear investment theme.
And he bought a $2.7 million beach house.
Bottom line: Biden hasn’t spent much time on his money, and it shows.
Worth: $1.89 million to $6.05 million
Conclusion: A classically built retirement strategy. Not overly aggressive.
Most of the California senator’s money looks like a textbook retirement plan: A city pension from her prosecutor days is worth $250,000 to $500,000 — and her 2025 target-date funds (she’s 54) are worth up to $200,000. She also reported $500,000 to $1 million in a savings account (at her salary, up to 12 times a normal rainy-day fund), and $100,000 to $250,000 in each of a large-gap growth fund and a mid-cap stock fund. Harris takes appropriate levels of risk for someone in her position, except the stack of cash is too big.
It’s also a little odd that a politician from San Francisco isn’t bigger on tech stocks.
Bottom line: She set herself up smartly, and a late-in-life marriage to a $1 million a year lawyer incidentally added security.
Worth: Negative $277,990 to positive $166,998
Conclusion: He’s young and relatively poor but likes blue-chip growth. Classic millennial.
The 37-year old South Bend (Ind.) mayor reports two stock holdings — Apple AAPL, -0.56% and Google parent Alphabet GOOG, -0.63% with between $15,000 and $50,000 in Apple. He also owns a few mutual funds — one growth, one bond and two tied to the Standard & Poor’s 500 SPX, -0.65% worth $60,000 or less together. He also has a ton of student loans — on a 25-year repayment schedule.
Bottom line: Buttigieg’s money is fine — it’s intelligently put together, but needs time to ripen. Will voters say the same thing about him?
Worth: $4.9 million to $11.1 million
Conclusion: Her portfolio’s as no-fuss as her hairstyle.
Warren’s biggest investment is an annuity of $1 million to $5 million with TIAA-CREF — a strategy that takes most risk out of her money. According to a TIAA-CREF calculator, a $5 million annuity can generate $350,000 in yearly income. The Massachusetts senator also has $1 million to $2 million split between a TIAA-CREF real estate fund and a general stock fund, and $250,000 to $500,000 in a non-U.S. stock fund. Most of the rest of her non-housing net worth is in stock-index and bond funds.
Bottom line: Warren got rich from books analyzing middle-class finances, then made moves that let her not think much about her dough while in office. Annuities trade potential returns for set-it-and-forget-it near-certainty.
Worth: $729,030 to $1.78 million
Conclusion: For a self-described socialist, he has lots of dough. Enough of it is consciously invested that he seems to be paying attention to values.
Like Biden, the Vermont senator got rich quick in his 70s — and has the fat credit-union balance ($250,000 to $500,000) to prove it. He has about 20 mutual fund holdings — at least three are ESG (environmental, social and governance) funds. Like Biden, he also put book-contract money into real estate.
Bottom line: If he invests the government’s money like his own, expect lots of liberal goals.
Not a one has Trump’s $2.8 billion net worth (per Bloomberg). And none got the $400 million of gifts from Daddy that got Trump started. It’s up to voters to decide if the upstarts’ money style points to temperaments better suited than Trump’s to the sober decision-making presidents do.
Tim Mullaney’s money, if you must know, is mostly in technology and U.S. stock funds. Follow him on Twitter @timmullaney