WASILLA -- Sarah Palin and her husband have pieced together a uniquely Alaska income that reached comfortably into six figures even before she became governor, capitalizing on valuable fishing rights, a series of land deals and a patchwork of other ventures to build an above-average lifestyle.
Add up the couple's 2007 income and the estimated value of their property and investments and they appear to be worth at least $1.2 million. That would make the Palins, like Democratic vice presidential rival Joe Biden and his wife Jill, well off but not nearly as wealthy as multimillionaire couples John and Cindy McCain and, to a lesser extent, Barack and Michelle Obama.
One measure of financial health: While there is a home loan, Palin reported no personal credit card debt on her most recent financial report as Alaska governor. That compares to average household credit card debt among Americans of $9,840 last year.
A more complete picture will come when Sarah Palin outlines her personal finances in federal paperwork in coming days. It will include details of any mortgage debt and at least rough dollar totals for bank accounts and investments.
Palin this week characterized herself as "an everyday, working-class American" who knows how it feels when the stock market takes a hit.
The Palins' total income last year was split almost evenly between Sarah Palin's white-collar job and her husband's blue-collar work. Sarah Palin's salary as governor was $125,000; Todd Palin took in $46,790 as a part-time oil production operator for BP Alaska in Prudhoe Bay, plus $46,265 in commercial fishing income and $10,500 in Iron Dog snowmachine race winnings. These figures do not include nearly $17,000 in per diem payments Palin received for 312 nights spent in her own home since she was elected governor; she also has received $43,490 to cover travel costs for her husband and children.
In addition, each member of the Palin family received $1,654 in state oil royalties paid to all Alaskans.
The Palins' assets seem enviable: a half-million-dollar home on a lake with a float-plane at the dock, two vacation retreats, commercial-fishing rights worth an estimated $50,000 or more and an income last year of at least $230,000. That compares with a median income of $64,333 for Alaskans and $50,740 for Americans in 2007, according to the Census Bureau.
The Palins' main residence, a large two-story house on Lake Lucille in Wasilla, draws much of its value from its prime position along a paved road and float-plane accessible lake, said Darcie Salmon, a local real estate agent. He said lakefront land is plentiful in Alaska, but lakefront land along paved roads isn't.
The Palins' four-bedroom, four-bath house, nearly 3,500 square feet, sits on just over two acres behind a tall wood-plank privacy fence that runs along one side of the property. It's one of the newest homes in the Snider subdivision lining Lake Lucille and is assessed at $552,000 -- more than twice the value of a neighboring two-acre lot with a much smaller, older wood-frame home.
Todd Palin built the house with friends who were contractors, he said in a recent television interview.
In addition to the Lake Lucille home, the Palins own recreational property in two remote areas accessible by plane, all-terrain vehicle or snowmachine.
The Palins invested in five lots along Safari Lake, an undeveloped area near Denali State Park. They bought the property, once owned by the state's Department of Natural Resources and valued at $30,000 in assessment records, with friends Scott and Deborah Richter in 2004 and 2005. The Richters have since divorced.
With other friends, the Palins own a cabin on five acres southwest of Wasilla and the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The land and cabin are assessed at $55,000; property records do not show what the Palins paid for their share.
The Palins own snowmachines and an airplane. Todd Palin has a 1958 Piper float plane that he said has been in his family for about 20 years.
Other family assets include Todd Palin's shoreside lease and commercial fishing permit to harvest salmon from Bristol Bay each season. Last year, the Palins took in $46,265 commercial fishing for sockeye salmon over about a month.
Todd Palin is still a BP employee. Company spokesman Steve Rinehart declined to describe Palin's status beyond confirming his employment. Palin's schedule is one week on, one week off, Palin said in a recent television interview.