Last month Crain’s Chicago Business published its “Fortunate 100”–its annual list of Chicago’s best-paid CEOs.  (Nonsubscribers can check out the Fortunate Five.)  The millions and tens of millions are just business porn–MEGO. Let’s measure the numbers in an understandable way.

The median annual income for an Illinois college graduate aged 21-64, according to the Census Bureau, was $45,689 in 1999.  (I’m being generous with the education level to make up for the old data. If you’ve got better, lay it on me.)

If you started working at age 21 and retired or died at age 64–and spent all that time at the median income (you wish), then your lifetime earnings would be just over $1.96 million. Total.

In order to match last year’s most fortunate CEO, W. James McNerney Jr. of Boeing, at $29.3 million, you’d need to work for 15 lifetimes. And then another 15 next year. Get busy!