Employer contributions to 401(k)s and pensions can have a huge impact on your ability to retire. But there’s no standard amount that companies pay their workers for retirement benefits. 401(k) and pension contributions at private sector companies ranged from $4.22 an hour in the utilities industry to just 9 cents an hour for food service workers in 2009, according to recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics data. While private firms spent an average of $27.42 per hour for total employee compensation in December 2009, just 92 cents of that typically went toward voluntary retirement benefits. Companies generally spent far more on legally required retirement benefits, including Social Security and Medicare, averaging $1.63 an hour. Here is a look at which types of jobs tend to provide the highest retirement benefits.
Government jobs. State and local government workers were more highly paid in 2009, averaging $39.60 an hour worked. And $3.19 of that wage went toward pensions and 401(k)s. The higher retirement benefits in the public sector largely reflect higher participation in government retirement plans, according to Natalie Kramer, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “State and local governments have virtually universal coverage for all the major benefits,” she says.
Union membership. A union card just might be your ticket to a secure retirement. Union workers received 3 fold greater retirement benefits than their nonunion counterparts in 2009. Retirement payouts for union workers averaged $2.42 an hour, while nonunion workers generally received just 75 cents an hour for retirement. “When the workforce is more unionized the benefits are more equally distributed throughout the employee groups,” says Kramer.
Large employers. Large companies generally contribute more to employee 401(k)s and pensions than smaller firms. Employers with 500 or more workers paid out an average of $2.17 an hour for worker retirement programs, compared to $1.46 an hour at firms with between 100 and 499 workers, and 92 cents an hour at small businesses with less than 100 employees.