Having gained a reputation as a financial writer, Necker was appointed France's Directory of the Royal Treasury in 1776, and a year later Director General of the Finances. In addition to attemptint to raise money for the American War of Independence, he instituted a number of financial and social reforms, which earned him the antagonism of the aristocracy and even Marie-Antoinette. In 1781 he was forced to retire, but he was recalled in 1788 to attempt to rescue France from imminent bankruptcy. His address to the Estates General in 1789 included numerous plans for liberal but not radical political reform, calling for a limited constitutional monarchy like that of Great Britain. His dismissal by the king on 11 July increased the anti-aristocratic sentiments of the more radical reformers. Although he was recalled only days later to deal with the deficit of the new revolutionary government, he retired in September 1790 to Coppêt, Switzerland, where he remained until his death in 1804.
His wife, née Suzanne Curchod, had been a friend and lover of Edward Gibbon and remained a friend of Buffon until his death. Necker and his wife had only one child, a daughter, later known as Madame de Staël.