Trump drops off 'richest people' list for first time since 1996 because he refused ethics advice: Forbes
An angry Donald Trump screams during one of his speeches (Photo: Screen capture)

Former president Donald Trump has fallen off Forbes' list of America's 400 richest people for the first time in a quarter-century — and he has himself to blame, according to the magazine.

Trump is worth an estimated $2.5 billion — down $600 million from the start of the pandemic, Forbes reported Tuesday. The magazine explained that big-city real-estate, which makes up the bulk of Trump's fortune, has languished thanks to COVID-19.

Trump was in the top half of the richest 400 people list from 1997 until he took office in 2016. But he has dropped in the rankings in each of the last five years, and now he's fallen off the list entirely.

"If Trump is looking for someone to blame, he can start with himself," Forbes reported. "Five years ago, he had a golden opportunity to diversify his fortune. Fresh off the 2016 election, federal ethics officials were pushing Trump to divest his real estate assets. That would have allowed him to reinvest the proceeds into broad-based index funds and assume office free of conflicts of interest."

Instead, Trump opted to hold on to his real-estate assets. Forbes noted that Trump boasted in a news conference at Trump Tower nine days before taking office: "I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I would be the only one that would be able to do that."

If Trump had divested his real-estate assets and invested in an index fund tracking the S&P 500, for example, he could now be worth anywhere from $4.5 billion to $7 billion, depending on whether he was able to obtain a certificate of divestiture and avoid capital-gains taxes.

"Close-mindedness has its costs," the magazine reports. "If Trump had managed to avoid capital-gains taxes, he could have theoretically reinvested $3.5 billion into the S&P 500 on the day he entered the White House. In that alternate scenario, Trump would have been worth an estimated $7 billion by this September, when Forbes locked in estimates for its annual list, enough to earn a spot as the 133rd-richest person in the country. Instead, he's off the Forbes 400 for the first time in a quarter-century."