Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis movie is finally here, starring Austin Butler as the legendary music maker. Like you’ve probably come to expect from Luhrmann (whose last film was The Great Gatsby), early reviews noted the biopic’s “maximalist” vibe and “lavishly staged” production value. But you may be wondering: were The King’s finances just as grand?
Short answer: yes! The best-selling solo artist of all time did, indeed, make quite a living. But the wealth wasn’t as lasting as you might expect.
To fully appreciate Elvis Presley’s net worth when he passed away, it’s worth taking a look back at how his rise to rock fame (and all the accompanying wealth) began. Presley was born in 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, and his family felt the effects of the economic crisis. As the Mississippi Historical Society points out, they lived in a tiny shotgun house in Tupelo — and lost the property when Presley’s dad, Vernon, went to prison for forging a $4 check.
As a young adult, of course, Presley’s finances were a much different story. By the time he was 21, he’d released his debut album and was paid $50,000 for three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show — more than half a million today, with inflation.
Presley’s first three albums were consecutive chart-toppers — and their success, plus touring and a nascent film career, contributed to a growing net worth. By 22, the “Blue Suede Shoes” singer was able to purchase the Graceland Estate (including the 17,552 square-foot mansion) for just over $100,000, or $1 million in today’s dollars.
Keeping up the estate would prove to be pretty costly, however. By the time Presley passed away in 1977, maintenance on the estate cost more than half a million per year. Presley had also experienced harmful substance use, per PBS, and excessive spending. As the Graceland site puts it, “Elvis Presley could have left one of the great fortunes of entertainment history, had he been one to worry about financial planning, rather than freely enjoying and sharing his wealth as he did.” Ultimately, these factors caused Presley’s net worth to be lower than you might have expected, by his final days.
So, What Was Elvis Presley’s Net Worth?
Celebrity Net Worth reports that Presley’s net worth was $5 million at the end of his life; in today’s dollars, that would be about $20 million. He left his estate to his father, grandmother, and daughter, Lisa Marie Presley — and when the former two passed away within years of Presley’s passing, she became the sole personal owner of the property, and remains such today. Fittingly, Graceland even hosted the U.S. premiere of Elvis. It’s also where you can see a collection of Presley’s near-countless awards and accolades, including multiple Grammys and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.
In turning Graceland into a beloved tourist destination — the most-visited home in America, after the White House — Presley’s estate had made him one of the highest-paid dead celebrities. According to Forbes, the late musician earned more than $20 million in 2020 alone.