By Heather Boerner, for Yahoo! HotJobs
Between plunging stocks, Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme and the seemingly poor health of some of the country's most established companies, it can seem like finding a job that provides good pay and good retirement is about as probable as running across a unicorn on your morning commute.
Not so, says Steve Vernon, president of Rest-of-Life Communications and a former retirement program consultant.
"Maybe it's surprising, but jobs with good retirement benefits are still out there," says Vernon. "They're usually with companies that are profitable and need to attract and keep highly skilled people."
The best retirement programs? A traditional pension -- which is professionally managed and requires no contribution from you -- plus a 401k with a company match. But if you can get a 401k with employer contributions -- with or without a match from you -- you're in good shape, too.
Trades: Electricians, Plumbers, Truck Drivers, Construction
For these jobs, you'll need to sign up with a union to get a good retirement, says Vernon. Unions negotiate and fight for traditional pensions.
"Look for unions that are strong and doing well," says Vernon. "United Auto Workers may offer a good pension, but that's not a good field to enter right now."
Insurance: Underwriters, Actuaries, Accountants, Secretaries
"The insurance industry is in the business of providing benefits, so philosophically, they'll want their employees to experience their own products," Vernon says.
Pharmaceuticals: Sales, Scientists, Marketing, Accountants, Secretaries
Pharmaceuticals is a great industry in which to seek better retirements, because the companies tend to take a long view with their products.
"Drugs are out for many years, and they'll want the scientists to be around for years, too," says Vernon. "And because of benefits law, once they offer good retirement to scientists, they have to offer it to the rank-and-file as well."
Public Employees: Police, Fire, Accountants, Secretaries, Planners, Engineers
Governments may be cutting back now, but if you can snag one of the open jobs, you're likely to be enrolled in a state pension program that can pay you up to 90 percent of your salary at retirement. In California today, for example, 480 state retirees collect more than $100,000 a year in pensions. Most of them are retired police or fire officers or their survivors.
Layoffs are under way in states heavily affected by the housing crisis, but if you can get and keep a teacher job in a public grade school or university, you're likely to get a great retirement program.
"And those plans are often offered to the rank-and-file employees, like aides and secretaries, as well," Vernon adds.
"There's a tremendous demand for any kind of nurse, and some have good retirements," Vernon says.
The key is to find larger hospital systems that can support hefty retirement programs, or a hospital that has a unionized nursing staff. In the past 15 years, registered nurses in particular have fought for and won traditional pensions.