Very small businesses. Although small businesses are generally less likely to offer pensions than larger companies, the exception is ultrasmall companies with five or fewer employees, such as dentist or law offices, as well as mom and pop shops (with perhaps only one receptionist in addition to the family), according to Fran Hawthorne, author of Pension Dumping: The Reasons, the Wreckage, the Stakes for Wall Street. "Very often, the owners of small doctor's offices set up the pension plan because they want a tax-free way to put money aside for retirement," she says. "The law requires that if you do this, you must provide the same pension for all your employees based on income."
Payouts are likely to be higher if you spend several decades working for a single employer, although some hybrid pension plans are more portable. "If you don't get a job with a pension now, your odds go down every year because more and more [pensions] freeze each year," says Hawthorne. If you get your foot in the door now, you get to keep what you've accrued so far, even if the pension is frozen at a later date. You'll also get your promised payout no matter how the stock market performs immediately before you retire. If the company goes out of business, most workers still get retirement benefits because most private-sector pensions are insured by the federal government.
Once you score a job with a pension, don't brag about your cushy retirement plans to pension-less peers. "You see a lot of pension envy on the part of workers in the private sector who don't get a pension," cautions Nancy Hwa, a spokesperson for the Pension Rights Center. "I think people too often look at it as a perk when it's as much a part of your compensation package as your weekly paycheck."