When former president Jimmy Carter left office, his peanut business was $1 million in debt

Former president Jimmy Carter returns to his hometown of Plains, Georgia after his term as president ended
Chuck Fishman | Archive Photos | Getty Images

When President Jimmy Carter left the White House in 1981, he was 56 years old and deep in debt.

His peanut business, which sold certified seed peanuts and other farm supplies, was $1 million in the red by the time he finished his term, The Washington Post reports. Carter had been managing the family-owned peanut farm, warehouse and store in Plains, Georgia, since his dad died in 1953, but when he became president, he put it into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest.

When he left office in debt, "we thought we were going to lose everything," Carter's wife Rosalynn told the Post.

Forced to sell the company, Carter started writing books to generate income. Today, the 94-year-old has published more than 30, from a children's book to reflections on his presidency.

As a former president, he also receives an annual pension of about $210,000 and an allowance for things like travel, office space and other expenses. In 2017, Carter got more than $230,000 in such allowances, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation reports.

Former President Jimmy Carter lives in a $167,000 house
Former President Jimmy Carter lives in a $167,000 house

Carter is not the only U.S. president to finish his term in the red: Thanks to legal fees, Bill Clinton "left the White House $16 million in debt," he told NBC's Craig Melvin in 2018.

As Clinton's wife Hillary put it, the couple came out of the White House "dead broke." But they were able to climb out of the multi-million dollar hole via paid speeches and lucrative books deals. In his first year out of office, Bill gave 57 speeches and earned $13.7 million from his "speaking and writing" business, according to their tax return. A single speech generated anywhere from $125,000, the standard fee, to $350,000, NPR reported.

By 2004, just three years after leaving office, the Clintons had fully erased their debt. And by the time Hillary ran for president in 2016, her net worth was approximately $45 million, Forbes estimated.

Today, the couple's impressive real estate portfolio includes a $1.7 million home in Chappaqua, New York, and a $2.85 million home in Washington, D.C.

While Carter and his wife live comfortably in Plains, Georgia, they spend modestly, especially compared to other living former presidents: Their home is a two-bedroom valued at $167,000, Carter has been known to buy his clothes at the Dollar General and he often flies commercial.

As Carter's former White House communications director Gerald Rafshoon told the Post: "He doesn't like big shots, and he doesn't think he's a big shot."

Don't miss: Bill Clinton says he left the White House $16 million in debt

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Hillary Clinton: ‘Fighting for what’s right is worth it’
Hillary Clinton: ‘Fighting for what’s right is worth it’