How, they wondered, could a family making six-figures, living rent free, and writing best-sellers possibly run out of cash?
As it turns out, being President doesn't necessarily come cheap.
While first families don't have to pay rent at the White House, they are responsible for personal costs that can multiply, especially if they spend the full eight years in that spotlight.
Former first lady Laura Bush wrote in her post-White House memoir that she was expected to pick up the tab for every meal she ate at the White House or the presidential Camp David retreat -- for her husband's two terms.
"The presidential room, as it were, is covered, but not the board," she wrote in her book, "Spoken from the Heart."
While first families aren't responsible for utility bills or a mortgage, "it is more than fair that they pay for personal items like every American household."
So traumatized was Laura Bush by the constant attention to her predecessors hair that she hired a stylist to give her a blow dry daily -- at her own expense.
Bush wrote that a bill came monthly, itemizing everything she and her family owed, including food, dry cleaning and hourly wages for waiters and cleanup crews at private parties.
"There were some costs that I was not prepared for," Bush wrote. "I was amazed by the sheer number of designer clothes that I was expected to buy, like the women before me, to meet the expectations for a first lady."
The Clintons wouldn't be the first presidential couple to emerge from the White House in debt.
When he left office in 1825, James Monroe was deeply in debt.
It wasn't just dinner parties and designer dresses weighing down the Clintons financially. Enormous legal fees followed them after their departure in January 2001.
By the end of the previous year, the Clintons carried debt totaling somewhere between $2.28 million to $10.6 million.
But the red ink was taken care of pretty quickly. They both signed big book advances, and the former president raked in millions giving speeches.
By 2004 the Clintons had paid off all their legal fees.
It wasn't just speaking engagements boosting the Clinton's income. When a President leaves the White House he's still on the government payroll, receiving an annual pension of about $200,000, health care, paid official travel and an office.
Rent for President Jimmy Carter's Atlanta office is $102,000 per year, according to 2010 figures compiled by the Congressional Research Service. President George H. W. Bush's Houston office costs $175,000 per year. President Bill Clinton's office in the pricey real estate market of New York City is $516,000.
He currently gets about $750,000 per speech.