Power and pressure. Those are the two words that best describe Jerome Powell’s career, as well as his position as chairman of the Federal Reserve. You could easily add “wealth” to the list given that Powell’s net worth is estimated to be $20-55 million.
Why the wide range? Well, Powell’s not young, and he’s been an investment banker as well as a man who’s been described as “the world’s best bureaucrat.” He’s held a lot of positions and made a lot of money, so his career is definitely worth a deeper dive.
Powell made the majority of his wealth in the late 90s and early 2000s as a partner in the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. His government career has been far more intriguing. Powell’s rise up the bureaucratic range began serving as Under Secretary of the US Treasury by George W. Bush.
President Obama then nominated him for a position on the Fed’s Board of Governors, and in 2017 Donald Trump nominated him to be Fed chairman, a position with a four-year term and $190,000 annual salary. A salary that he deems as fair.
Not surprisingly, the pressure part started shortly after Trump nominated him. Apparently The Donald expected Powell to keep lowering interest rates, but Powell held firm for as long as he could. This triggered a steady stream of insults and character assassination rants from the now-former president.
But the fact that Trump won’t go away isn’t Powell’s only problem. He’s under the gun to use interest rates to control rising inflation, a task that’s virtually impossible given how badly broken the supply chain is right now. Powell made a promise in 2021 not to boost interest rates until employment rates improve and inflation rates rise above an average target of 2%.
He’s one for two in that department-employment rates have gotten better, but inflation will remain a lingering issue until the end of his term. Given the issues at hand, it shouldn’t be shocking that NPR has claimed that Powell was the most ridiculed Fed chairman ever. Part of the ridicule stems from Powell’s background and approach to the job.
He’s actually the first Fed chairman to have the job with no formal training in economics. Powell made it clear that he has a lot to learn. While he’s gone about that in a methodical way, that hasn’t exactly endeared him to his critics.
That doesn’t seem to faze Powell much at all. During Trump’s problematic term, Powell stated, “We won’t make mistakes of integrity or character,” a statement that helped fuel the barrage of criticism and insults that followed.
While Powell’s public life with the Fed has been full of onslaughts, his private life has been placid by comparison. He has been married to Elissa Leonard since 1985, and the couple lives outside DC in the Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase. They have three children, and like many high-level government officials, Powell tends to work hard to keep his family out of the limelight.