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Michael Dell: Hourly Wage Slave

While I was in our weekly editorial meeting, Oprah Winfrey earned $21,766. From the time I left my desk to powder my nose to the moment I returned, Steve Jobs pulled down $3,151.04. While I checked my voice mail (I promise to call back soon, Mom), Michael Dell earned a cool $4,709.80.

True, it's hard to picture Bill Gates punching a time clock, Julia Roberts staring at her watch during her 15-minute check-on-the-babies break or Charles Schwab getting looks from HR for tarrying over lunch. But lets you at least imagine what the flush and famous would be docked if they were paid by the hour for a 40-hour work week.

Of course, compensation involves more than just a base salary for most. Apple Computer's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) CEO received just $1 on his paycheck for the entire year of 2004. No need to pick up his dinner tab -- he's got a few other perks besides pay. Donald Trump does a little side work with General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) subsidiary NBC/Universal Studios. Perhaps you've heard of The Apprentice? (No, I wasn't asked to compete for an internship next season.)

Even executives on their way out fare well in the perks department. Boeing's (NYSE: BA  ) outgoing CEO collected his $2.1 million incentive bonus and retained use of the company car and corporate jet (with permission) with his pink slip, while Pegasystems (Nasdaq: PEGA  ) let its outgoing president take his stapler, $325,000 in cash, options worth about $4.5 million, an undisclosed "bonus," and full salary and benefits for a year. Those are some lovely parting gifts.

If you're not milking your employer for all you can, what are you waiting for? You might be passing up doctor bill discounts, cheap health care, discounted company stock, and free money -- yes, free, via any defined-benefit plan with company match. Start milking! And make sure you cover your keister should you be forced to take time off because of a medical or other emergency.

Now excuse me while I collect the buck-fifty (compared with Britney Spears' equivalent of $813.22) coming to me for writing this closing sentence.

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