One way to enjoy a more secure retirement is to pick a job that comes with generous retirement benefits. The amounts vary considerably. Private firms spend an average of 92 cents an hour on retirement benefits, according to recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Employer 401(k) and pension contributions range from $4.22 an hour in the utilities industry to just 9 cents an hour for food service workers.
Industries that provide above-average retirement benefits have a few things in common. "It varies depending on employer size, the union affiliation of the employee, and the occupation of the employee," says Natalie Kramer, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unionized workers receive considerably more generous retirement benefits, averaging $2.42 an hour, than nonunion workers, who get just 75 cents an hour. State and local government workers receive $3.19 an hour toward retirement benefits. Companies with 500 or more employees contribute considerably higher amounts to employee 401(k)'s and pensions than smaller companies. Here is a look at the private-sector industries that paid the highest retirement benefits in 2009.
Utility companies. The heavily unionized utilities industry paid out $4.22 per hour for employee retirement benefits—the most of any industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And your local utility company may soon be hiring. About 53 percent of the industry's workforce is age 45 or older, which means there's a good chance jobs will open up as workers retire. Nuclear power, electric transmission, water and sewage treatment, and renewable energy are expected to have the most openings in the coming decade because of growing demand for what they provide.
Aircraft manufacturing. Many of the engineers and computer scientists who design aircraft equipment and the machinists, tool- and diemakers, and assemblers who construct them enjoy generous retirement benefits. Those in the aircraft manufacturing industry, including inspectors, testers, production managers, and people in administrative and sales support, received the significantly above-average retirement contributions of $2.63 an hour.
Colleges and universities. Higher education institutions are known for providing pleasant working environments and generous health, retirement, and other benefits to staff at all levels. You don't necessarily have to have a Ph.D. or tenure to receive excellent employer contributions toward retirement. The typical employee at colleges, junior colleges, and universities received $2.39 an hour of retirement benefits in 2009.
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Insurance carriers. The often large companies that sell health insurance, life insurance, annuities, and auto insurance generally make above-average retirement contributions, averaging $1.81 per hour. Smaller insurance agencies generally provide less extensive benefits. The industry is expected to add 67,600 new jobs by 2018.
Transportation and warehousing. The transportation and warehousing industry transports, stores, and delivers our consumer goods. For dealing with the weather, traffic, and fatigue of this heavy-lifting industry, workers are generally compensated with $1.76 an hour toward retirement. Union members generally receive higher retirement benefits, while self-employed owner-operators are responsible for funding their own retirement. The industry is sensitive to economic peaks and downturns, since orders for goods drive the demand for transportation services.
Construction. This labor-intensive and potentially dangerous job rewards workers with $1.60 an hour toward retirement. Union members and those covered by union contracts generally receive considerably better benefits. The construction industry is expected to grow about 19 percent by 2018 as the growing elderly population begins to require new medical treatment facilities and the oldest children of the baby boomers reach their peak home-buying years.