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$200,000: The New Standard
Making $100,000 per year used to mean that a lifetime of hard work had peaked at the coveted six-figure salary. Times have changed.
 

-By Dan Malachowski, Salary.com

A few years back, making $100,000 per year meant that you drove a Benz with shiny rims, put your kids through Yale no problem, paid your country club dues ahead of time, and generally walked with your head (or nose) held high. You were one of the elite and at the top of your game. A lifetime of hard work had peaked at the coveted six-figure salary. Times have changed. These days a $100,000 salary means you drive a domestic car with missing hubcaps, have two outstanding loans to cover your child's state school education, and complain that the greens fees at the public golf course are too steep. Well, perhaps it isn't that bad. The point is that making $100K no longer makes you special. Let's face it: $100,000 is not what it used to be; $200,000 is the new standard.

The "New Black"

According to compensation experts, the status that came along with the six-figure salary died in the late 1990s, when the prolonged success of the stock market and American industry in general led people to believe that that the sky didn't end at $100K. Salaries started creeping past the century mark as the century turned, and executives began to set their sites on a new salary cap: $200,000.

Bill Coleman, Senior Vice President of Compensation at Salary.com, calls $200K "the new black." Those who make $200,000 are "the players." Play on, players. The rest of the white-collared workforce is striving to join you. Coleman, who tracks executive pay, notes that there is "a lot of bunching between $100,000 and $150,000. That's the vast majority of the people who used to aspire to $100,000. Now they are aspiring to $200,000 or $250,000." Coleman also notes that it is a shame that the "natural milestone" of $100,000 has now been outdated: "One hundred thousand is magical because it is 100; 100 is perfect, remember when you were in school?" While the $200,000 threshold may be beyond reasonable expectation for most of today's workforce, Coleman holds that workers will still target that number, as it is "not beyond reasonable hope."

We scoped America's most lucrative job titles in order to identify those workers who are in style for 2005. Don't hate "the players" because they pull down the dough; most of these people are either saving lives or leading your company.

Click to see the salary ranges of some jobs that are now making $200,000+ salaries:

$200,000+ Jobs
Title
Median Salary
Neurology Surgeon
Chief Executive Officer
University Chancellor
Chief Financial Officer
Anesthesiologist
Associate General Counsel
Chief Operating Officer
Heart Transplant Surgeon
Top Investment Executive
Gastroenterologist
Source: Salary.com June 2005

Click here to view all our six-figure jobs.

The Big-Time Players

Have you been watching "Survivor" lately and thought: "So these guys have to live on an island for two months, eat bugs, get attacked by sharks, and the one who outlasts, outwits, and outplays wins only one million dollars?" Ten years ago, it was absurd to give away one million dollars on TV. Now shows like "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" have evolved into "Super Millionaire." The fact is, like the $100,000 milestone, one million has also lost its sparkle. For those keeping track, the new one million is ten million. When it comes to measuring your wealth and planning your retirement, ten million is the number to strive towards. So unless you have earned at least ten million, don't plan on knocking elbows with Tiger Woods (80 million last year), Britney Spears (23.2 million last year), Howard Stern (30.1 million last year), or Barry Bonds (18 million last year). Don't get me wrong, one million dollars is a lot of money, but being a mono-millionaire these days only puts you in the company of Survivor's Richard Hatch and the guy who is 73rd on the PGA Tour money list.

However, you don't have to have rock-hard abs or hit 70 homers a season to be a "big-time player." Salary.com's Executive Compensation Wizard tracks the pay of America's top business people.

Check out what the highest paid executives in America are making:

TRUMP HOTELS AND CASINO RESORTS (DJT)

COUNTRYWIDE FINANCIAL (CFC)

TOLL BROTHERS (TOL)

TOMMY HILFIGER (TOM)

MERRILL LYNCH & C0 (MER)

CENDANT (CD)

CITIGROUP (C)

So get with the times. Forget about making $100,000 or one million dollars. These days you need $200,000 to be a "player," and ten million to be a "big-time player." So go to medical school, climb the corporate ladder, work on your singing voice, or start lifting weights. And if all else fails, you can always apply to be on the next reality TV show!

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