Workers Who Get the Best Retirement Benefits

Specific groups of people get much better retirement benefits than others.

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Specific industries. Your career choice often plays a role in the type of retirement benefits you receive. Workers in the manufacturing, transportation, utilities, information, and financial industries had the highest probability of using a retirement plan, while those in the services industry were the least likely to participate in 2011, EBRI found.

Healthy people. Workers who feel that they are in poor health are often less likely to participate in a retirement plan. "Even if they have health insurance, there is typically a large amount that they have to spend in addition to what health insurance covers, and they are probably less able to work on a more consistent basis," says Copeland. For example, among workers ages 55 to 64 who report they have very good health, 57 percent participated in a retirement plan, compared to 35 percent of workers the same age who report poor health.

[Read: 10 Places With Great Retirement Benefits.]

Location. The states with the lowest levels of people participating in retirement plans were in the South and West, including Florida, Nevada, Louisiana, California, Arizona, and Texas. States in the Mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest had the highest retirement-plan participation, especially North Dakota, Minnesota, and Virginia. "If you look in the upper Midwest, there are more union workers, which plays a large role in retirement benefits," says Copeland. Two California metro areas, Fresno-Madera and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, stood out as having particularly low retirement-plan participation levels, while the Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah, Wis., area had an unusually high participation level.

Retirement-plan participation declined by 5.91 percentage points among all states between 2001 and 2011. Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey, Nevada, and South Carolina had even sharper drops of at least eight percentage points during this period. Retirement-plan participation over the past decade increased in just three states: Colorado, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.