RAY BRADY: Just 14 years ago, Jennifer Overstreet was an $18,000 a year mail room assistant, but she struck it rich. California's high-tech Oracle Corporation gives stock options to its employees, even employees in the mail room.
JENNIFER OVERSTREET: I got this little grant of 200 shares or-- or whatever it was. And, you know, what that meant was they were making an investment in me. Cool.
BRADY: Cool is right. Thanks to those company options, Jennifer bought this home. It's a light and airy 8,000 square feet. She quit her job and is redoing that house from top to bottom. Though she won't give numbers, at age 36, Jennifer's a millionaire plus.
OVERSTREET: I never in my wildest dreams thought-- none of us could ha-- could have predicted that-- it would have turned out this way.
BRADY: Stock options work this way: The worker gets the right to buy a certain number of company shares at a guaranteed price of, say, $5 each. Stock goes down, option's worthless; stock goes up to $40, $50 a share, any price, you still pay just $5 a share. In the past, options went only to high-ranking executives with major corporations, but in a trend that started with high-tech companies, options are now going to more and more rank and file workers, like the workers at your nearby Home Depot.
MAN: Electrical five seven, someone in electrical five seven.
BRADY: In fact, company co-founder Arthur Blank says Home Depot's made more than 1,000 millionaires, many still on the job.
Are you telling me there are secretaries still working there that are worth $3 to $5 billion?
ARTHUR BLANK: Yes, I'm telling you that.
BRADY: Ten years ago, Delilah Syperda started working at Home Depot as a clerk making slightly over minimum wage, but with stock options. What's she worth now?
DELILAH SYPERDA: I am comfortable-- comfortable. Yes, I am, and I'm not going to tell you how comfortable I am. You just guess. I am comfortable.
BRADY: So let's guess. For workers at the start of the options program, even just $1,000 worth of Home Deport options, not a lot, is now worth $480,925.38.
SYPERDA: There are days that go by when I-- when I don't look at the price tag on the things I buy. That's not wise, but it feels very, very good.
BRADY: Does all this sound like a dream come true?
GREG BALDWIN: My goal, my dream is to play the Senior Tour. My golf game has to continue to get better.
BRADY: For store manager Greg Baldwin, his options, $3 a share, now worth more than $51 a share-- those options may make that dream come true.
BALDWIN: With the options, by the time I reach 50, whih is in four years, I should have the option to play the tour or stay with the company.
BRADY: With the number of companies giving options to workers tripling in the last five years, more Americans like Greg Baldwin may yet get a chance to share the wealth.
In Atlanta, I'm Ray Brady for Eye on America.