White House alums have long heeded the siren call of the corporate board to cash in on their prestige. In exchange for attending a few dry meetings and letting CEOs name-check them at parties, high-profile politicians can bank hundreds of thousands of dollars by taking on a "director" title. Gerald Ford was elected to the board of the National Association of Securities Dealers in 1999, while Apple paid Al Gore $1.2 million in 2010 alone.
For a recession-era president like Obama, navigating the shoals of corporate cash would be tricky. Economist Paul Kedrosky says he might want to avoid private-equity firms and multinational conglomerates that evoke anti-Wall Street sentiment. "It's more likely he ends up with the Silicon Valley crowd," says Kedrosky. "Growth-oriented tech companies would like the younger, hipper ex-president" attached to their brands. Possibilities include behemoths Apple and Google, but if he's looking for a hometown horse to bet on, fast-growing Groupon is based in Chicago. And as Facebook prepares for a $10 billion IPO, Mark Zuckerberg could come knocking.
Annual Earnings: $1.2 million
Likelihood: Possible, but remote