Lawyers have better 401(k) plans than you

Characteristics of a 401(k) millionaire
Characteristics of a 401(k) millionaire

Lawyers might work long hours, but they have great retirement benefits. Law firms offer the best 401(k) plans, according to a report from BrightScope, which rates company retirement plans.

Not an attorney? Workers at airline and utility and oil companies also have it good. Pilots at United Airlines (UAL) and U.S. employees at the Saudi Arabian Oil Company have access to the top-ranked plans in the country.

The study ranked 401(k) plans by industry, based on factors including plan fees, participation rates, the investment options employees have and how generous companies are with their contributions.

"Basically, we look at how long it takes workers to get to their retirement-ready goal line," said Brooks Herman, head of data and research at BrightScope.

Related: Why your next dollar shouldn't go to your 401(k)

Sure, lawyers earn good money which makes it easier to save for retirement. But law firms, on average, contribute $11,023 annually to employees' plans -- by far the most of any industry. The average at utility companies is $3,989 and at airlines is $6,173.

One reason: instead of offering stock bonuses like publicly traded companies can, many law firms offer 401(k) plans that will contribute more to a partner's account in a good year. Sullivan & Cromwell, an international law firm that has the highest ranked plan in its industry, does just that. The average account balance for workers there is a little more than $1 million.

Industries with the worst 401(k) plans included retail, hotels, casinos and food services -- where there tends to be lower wages and high turnover rates.

Workers at Walmart (WMT), for example, have an average balance of $21,000 in their 401(k) accounts. With 1.2 million participants, the retail giant has one the largest plans. It offers low fees, but employees' own contribution amounts are below average, according to BrightScope.