Trump: Dad's 'small loan' of $1.4 million got him started

Donald Trump enjoys his reputation as a magnate whose own smarts and business savvy made him a billionaire, but he acknowledged Monday that his father helped him out - with a "small" million-dollar loan.

"It has not been easy for me," the Republican Party frontrunner in the 2016 presidential nomination race told an NBC television-hosted town hall in New Hampshire.

"I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars," he said, noting that he had to pay back his father, New York self-made millionaire real estate mogul Fred Trump, with interest.

"But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties, and I did great." The comments raised eyebrows during a campaign season where conservative voters have all but rejected former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents, in favour of self-made political outsiders like Trump and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who grew up poor.

Questioned about the remarks, Trump acknowledged that his circumstance might sound easy to the average voter.

"You're right, but $1 million (S$1.4 million) isn't very much compared to what I've built," he told NBC.

"I mean, I've built one of the great companies, but it's always been, you know, you can't do this, you can't do that." Trump pegs his own worth at an astounding $10 billion, but Forbes magazine has put it closer to $4.5 billion.

Trump worked for a time for his father, who built thousands of residences in Brooklyn.

In the 1970s, he struck out on his own by constructing several buildings in Manhattan, many of which now bear the Trump name.

His business has gone global, and he has developed hotels, golf courses, resorts and luxury high-rise residence buildings around the world.