One of the most common employment perks is access to a 401k retirement plan, but not all plans are created equally. Financial information company BrightScope recently completed an in-depth analysis of more than 50,000 retirement plans that cover 57 million workers. BrightScope analysts rated each plan on more than 200 data points and then grouped the plans by industry to create its list of the top industries with the highest-ranked 401k plans and the law industry came out on top.

In February 2013, BrightScope released the results from its analysis of lawyers’ 401k plans and the international law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP came out on top with a 92.55 score. The 401k plan in place at the law firm has low fees and scored very well in the company generosity, participation rate and account balances categories. For comparison, the legal industry averaged an 82.75 rating.

Step from the white-collar world of the legal industry to the blue-collar world of utility workers and we find the second highest-rated industry, utilities. The 114 plans in the utility industry earned an average rating of 77.32.  

Just behind the utilities industry is another blue-collar dominated field, mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction. The 61 plans analyzed by BrightScope earned a 77.10 rating.

Best 401k Plans - Top 10 Industries

  1. Law - 82.75
  2. Utilities - 77.32
  3. Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction - 77.10
  4. Technology - 75.33
  5. Airlines - 74.65
  6. Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services - 74.33
  7. Business and Finance - 73.58
  8. Manufacturing - 72.54
  9. Automotive - 69.93
  10. Wholesale Trade - 69.26
I have to admit, seeing the business and finance industry in the number seven spot on a list of best 401k plans, which is a financial service itself, is a bit surprising. I would have expected to see that industry rank much higher, certainly higher than utilities and mining. This is good news, though, because, on a whole, employers and employees are taking retirement savings seriously.

"The range of industries topping this list shows that employers of all types are taking necessary steps to set up employees for a secure retirement by providing a robust 401k plan," said Brooks Herman, head of data and research for BrightScope. "We hope companies across the country are now inspired to evaluate the options available to workers and make positive changes that have the potential to make a huge impact to employees' financial future over time."

To find out how other industries ranked, download the BrightScope ranking of the top industries with the best 401k plans (PDF).

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