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CEOs made an average of $924,000 in 1965—here's how much money they earn today

Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Getty Images | Diego Donamaria

It pays to be the boss. Even in 1965, CEOs of the largest U.S. firms were pulling in an average of $924,000 a year (in 2018 dollars) and, since then, their compensation has skyrocketed.

That's according to a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which found that CEO pay peaked in 2000 at about $21 million a year (in 2018 dollars). In 2018, CEOs at major companies made an average of $17.2 million in compensation, hundreds of times more than the annual average pay of the typical worker.

"The ratio of CEO-to-worker compensation was 278-to-1 in 2018 — far greater than the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and 4.8 times greater than the 58-to-1 ratio in 1989," the report says.

The EPI looked at the 350 largest U.S. firms and measured compensation both with stock options realized and with the value of stock options granted. Both measures also include salary, bonuses, restricted stock grants and long-term incentive payouts.

Regardless of how it's measured, CEO pay continues to be monumental compared to the typical employee. "CEOs are even making a lot more — about five times as much — as other earners in the top 0.1%," the report adds.

CEOs are even making a lot more — about five times as much — as other earners in the top 0.1%.
Economic Policy Institute

Just how fast has pay grown for those at the very top? Here's the average annual CEO compensation for various years starting in 1965. CEO pay is represented in 2018 dollars.

1965

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $924,000
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $705,000

1973

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $1.2 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $920,000

1978

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $1.7 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $1.3 million

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1989

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $3.1 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $2.4 million

1995

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $6 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $6.6 million

2000

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $21.5 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $21.5 million

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2007

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $20 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $14 million

2009

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $11.3 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $10.8 million

2016

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $16 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $12.8 million

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2017

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $17.3 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $12.7 million

2018

CEO annual compensation based on options realized: $17.2 million
CEO annual compensation based on options granted: $14 million

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Getty Images | Diego Donamaria
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