The Presidents and Bankruptcy

It's pretty common knowledge that the current president, Donald Trump, has filed for bankruptcy multiple times. These were each business bankruptcies, not consumer. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows businesses to reorganize their debts, and sometimes keep functioning. Trump filed bankruptcy on several failed developments and a casino in Atlantic City.

What is not common knowledge is that several other presidents had huge financial difficulties, and filed bankruptcy, as well. The greatest and most famous of all to do so was Abraham Lincoln, who had to file bankruptcy on a failed business. Lincoln assumed debts from a partner in a failed general store, which required years of difficult  repayments. Bankruptcy in the 19th century was a different burden, and Lincoln struggled for years without the benefit of modern bankruptcy laws, even as his political career rapidly ascended.

Another Civil War-era hero who faced financial difficulties: Ulysses S. Grant. Grant made numerous poor investments, and was destitute into old age. His excellent autobiography was written largely to raise money to live and pay bills. Grant, like Lincoln, was a great and humble man, but his skills as a general and writer far exceeded his acumen as an investor. Often manipulated by business cronies while in office, Grant's financed fell into disarray.

Thomas Jefferson also faced financial difficulties throughout his adult life. Jefferson was a profligate spender, sparing no expense in building his estate, Monticello. Jefferson lived a lavish lifestyle, importing goods from England while preaching American self-sufficiency. He often borrowed money and avoided creditors. At his death, Jefferson's estate was what would amount to millions of dollars in modern debt, which necessitated the sale of his estate for the benefit of creditors.

Bankruptcy is a difficult decision for many of my clients, who may feel shame and a sense of failure. But, the brief anecdotes above should be a reminder that incredible men, and Donald Trump, have faced the same burdens while enjoying immense success in their fields. The drafter of the Declaration of Independence, The Great Emancipator, and the ultimately victorious Union general each overcame financial problems, without the benefit of more generous, modern, bankruptcy laws. There is no reason to feel shame or hopelessness about your situation.