sapperperson... damm, you hit the nail on the head, you just described what I did. But you forgot one interim step - contact for as long as you can (to make the really big bucks) before singing with a partner. And the final step, opening up your own company, which what I am seriously considering.
Your feedback is correct. I only worked for SAP from 2004-2005 and all old timers speak about how good the company was. Now they are improving margins by passing on the healthcare costs, scrapping discounted stock plan and putting consultants into crappy projects just to earn some bucks. The product is great but new employees are undervalued. I would have loved to get into contracts (and probably not contacts) but due to personal reasons had to take a not so great permanent position. Would love to open my company to get out off this low paying rat race.