Paying the Percentages

The median total compensation for the 100 highest-paid executives in The Washington Post's annual survey of executive pay was $5.25 million in 2004, up about 2 percent from the year before.

It's hard to feel sorry for those guys, considering the base pay that raise is calculated on, but the truth is that they aren't even keeping pace with inflation, which is running at about 3 percent.

Salary.com predicts a slightly better year for rank-and-filers throughout the nation. Polls conducted by the Web site, which provides information about compensation, suggest that workers can expect average raises of 3.7 percent for 2005, compared with 3.6 percent in 2004.

If you were hoping for a bigger boost, don't let those numbers discourage you. Both the Post and Salary.com averages include people who got plenty more, especially as the fortunes of their companies swelled.

Consider the case of Hugh Panero, XM Satellite Radio's chief executive. He saw his ranking on the Post list jump to No. 3, from No. 141 in 2003. Nearly all of his gain came from the value of his stock options. The final take: $28,757,809.

-- Mary Ellen Slayter