NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- There are a bunch of jobs that offer good pay, great benefits and nearly unmatched retirement plans -- all putting you on-track for an early retirement. From white collar executive positions to blue collar get-your-hands-dirty jobs. And they are all positions waiting to be filled by one massive employer – the government.
While you could apply – or even campaign – for a job on the local, county or state level, the plum assignments are often at the federal level. And don’t think you’ll necessarily be working cheap. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, on average U.S. federal workers garner higher salaries than the average private sector worker.
And it’s hard to beat the benefits. While pensions are all but gone in the private sector, replaced mostly by 401(k) plans, in a government job you get both. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) offers an annuity that serves as your pension while the Thrift Savings Plan functions like a 401(k).
Working for Uncle Sam also means access to low-cost life insurance, paid vacations and sick leave, all accruing on the first day of work. And the government is trail blazing “phased retirement,” with some agencies offering flexible work arrangements and reduced work hours as employees transition to retirement while drawing current – and earning future -- retirement benefits.
Government positions enjoy a certain job security, too. No matter what the politicians say, the government isn’t really shrinking. While government’s share of the economy is smaller, for the most part, federal employment remains steady, with over two million civilian workers as of May 2013 – not counting contract workers or the postal service.
Administrative positions account for 40% of the federal workforce. That includes human resource positions, like payroll, employee training and accountants. With 724,633 administrative jobs, median pay is $85,343, according to the BLS.
Professional careers account for the second-largest federal employment pool (469,456 jobs) and with an even higher median salary ($94,583). Careers include lawyers, financial managers, and registered nurses.
Other job classifications also earn decent salaries and those generous retirement benefits, including technical positions (median salary $47,254) such as chemists, computer network administrators and mechanical engineers; blue collar jobs (median salary $52,624) like janitors, sheet metal workers and painters; and clerical positions ($37,724) including secretaries and office clerks.
And even if you retire early, at age 55, federal employees are generally able to tap some of their retirement savings without incurring a 10% tax penalty. Another prized perk: federal employees are also eligible for retiree healthcare coverage.
And get this, FAA air traffic controllers earn an average $84,000 per year -- and get free airfare; two round trips per year. Granted, it’s not first class, in fact, they fly in the cockpit jumpseat, but it’s a bene nevertheless.
Local, county and state jobs can be equally lucrative and earn excellent retirement benefits. That’s one reason people run for city council seats on local governments or campaign for locally-elected government administrative jobs, such as county clerk of court, auditor or city manager.
Education can also be an entrée to early retirement. The BLS reports the median annual salary for high school teachers is $55,360 – and many states offer excellent retirement pensions, as well as defined contribution and deferred comp plans.
Not to mention those tasty hot rolls served with school lunches.
-- Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick