Who hasn't dreamed of striking it rich like Alex Snelius? A few years ago, the semiretired truck mechanic from the southwest suburbs won one of the biggest individual windfalls in the history of the Illinois Lottery-a payout of $18.5 million after taxes. If you're now imagining how much better your own life would be with the luck of Alex Snelius-the splendors you could afford, the tee shot you could perfect, the Trumpian swagger you could affect-then read on. His is a cautionary tale about the perils that can accompany great wealth-evidence of something we all know but sometimes have trouble remembering: money doesn't buy happiness (though it sure can buy a lot of other stuff).

Snelius's story, The $18-Million Headache, is just one part of our special report on the ways money courses through the lives of Chicagoans.

First up: Who Makes What, our second annual roundup of more than 250 local jobs and what they pay (including profiles and comparisons). As you compare your own circumstances with those of the workers presented here-from actor to Zen Buddhist, star outfielder to stargazer-the question you may ask is, "How am I doing?" Only you can answer that.

But elsewhere we answer a few other questions. Who Will Do Better? is a color-coded map of the region showing projected growth in median family income over the next few years. Among the fastest growers are some places you might expect, but also some surprises.

Next we move from earning money to parting with it. In Where Does It All Go?, we asked some locals to keep track of their expenditures for a week. Besides opening a window on their lives, they emerged with some strong reactions to the experience, from resignation to embarrassment to vows of better spending discipline.

And finally, something useful: The Bucks Start Here, 20 tips to make it easy for you to save more of the money you work so hard for. By following our advice, you may even end up as rich as Alex Snelius someday. You should be so lucky.


Who Makes What – Salaries List

Who Makes What – Profiles

Who Makes What – Comparisons

Who Will Do Better?

The $18-Million Headache

Where Does It All Go?

The Bucks Start Here