He might be the head honcho of the country, but President Barack Obama is far from the highest paid person in the country. With an annual salary of $400,000, the head of state also lives rent-free at the White House and enjoys full access to a private jet. Not bad, but you might be surprised at the jobs that pay vastly larger salaries than America's commander-in-chief earns. (For a related reading, see Obama's Scariest Financial Statements.)
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The CEO of General Motors
Despite the life preserver the Federal government threw to GM (NYSE:GM) after the flailing company filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the executive team earns far more than the president. According to documents filed to the SEC, CEO and GM Chairman Dan Akerson's annual cash base salary is $1.7 million. But that's not all: Akerson also has a $5.3 million stock plan and an additional $2 million in restricted stock, bringing the executive's income to a tidy $9 million. Not bad for a company that appears to be only just making a comeback. In November, General Motors raised more $20 billion in an initial public offering that put it back on the New York Stock Exchange. More recently, the Chevrolet Volt (which is owned by GM) became the first electric car to be named the 2011 North American Car of the Year. (For more, check out 5 Dead Auto Brands And Why They Died.)
The Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory
Lab director Michael R. Anastasio just squeaks past the president's salary, making approximately $467,000 annually, according to University of California documents (the school is part of Los Alamos National Security LLC and pays $17,700 of Anastasio's earnings). The lab, which launched in 1943 as the Manhattan Project and was contracted by the government to design the atomic bomb, now spends about $2.2 billion in operating costs, still with a focus on nuclear deterrent. After five years with the famously secret bomb lab, Anastasio announced that he will be saying "goodbye" to his $743/month auto allowance and "hello" to retirement in June. "Every day as Lab director has afforded me the opportunity to encounter brilliant science and dedicated people committed to the great responsibilities the country has entrusted to us," he said in a statement.
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The Coach of the Air Force Falcons
Troy Calhoun, the football coach for the Air Force Academy's Falcons, is reportedly the highest-paid member of the athletic department at the school in Colorado Springs with a salary of $725,000. Despite rumors that the 45-year old school alumnus would leave to coach for the Denver Broncos (where he got his NFL coaching start), it was announced in January of 2009 that he had signed a five-year contract with the academy, with rumors of his return to Denver still swirling late in 2010. "We have structured a program of compensation that will continue to reward Coach Calhoun and his staff for long-term commitment to Air Force football," said the school's director of athletics, Dr. Hans Mueh. "He and the entire football staff are the perfect role models for our future Air Force leaders and represent the best ideals of college football in America." (For more, see Who's Cashing In On Pro Sports Revenue?) Former President Bill Clinton
Former President George W. Bush
George W. Bush's book, Decision Points, which was released this past year, blew Clinton's sales numbers away when it sold out of its original print-run of 1.5 million copies when it was released in November. It was rumored that the controversial former president was paid $7 million to write the autobiography.
The Bottom Line
If you want to make the top bucks, a government job may not be the answer. Even the highest paid government workers don't come close to the president's $400,000 salary. Vice-president of the United States Joe Biden makes much less, with a salary of $230,700. However, it's clear that retirement from the Oval Office has higher earning potential than the presidential post. (To learn more, see 5 Sectors With Recession-Proof Pay.)
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Former President Bill Clinton