The Employee Benefit Research Institute uncovered a disturbing trend—well, disturbing to anyone who hopes to retire someday and leave the office behind. The trend? Retirement plan participation is in a downturn all over the country.

It’s worse in some areas than others, naturally. According to the October EBRI issue brief “Employment-Based Retirement Plan Participation: Geographic Differences and Trends, 2010,” although there are 156.2 million workers in the U.S., fewer than half of that number were even offered the chance to participate in a retirement plan—leaving some 81.2 million out in the cold. A majority of the remaining 75 million, 60.7 million, or about 40% of all workers, seized the opportunity when offered.

We’ve already looked at the Top 10 Best States where people are most likely to be able to participate in a retirement plan, whether from a private company or a government employer. Here are the bottom 10, where unlucky working stiffs are liable to have to keep their noses to the grindstone ad infinitem.

Grand Canyon. (Photo: AP)10. Arizona: 36.4%

Perhaps one reason Arizona finds itself in the bottom 10 is its high concentration of Hispanic residents, who are, according to the study, considerably less likely to participate in a retirement plan. From the study: “Among white workers, 49.5% participated in a plan, compared with 27.5% of Hispanic workers.”

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2009 Hispanics made up 31% of the state’s population. Those among them without a retirement plan, unfortunately, will have lots of company in the Grand Canyon State as they continue to work to finance the “Grand Canyon” of retirement.

Coke is headquartered in Georgia. (Photo: AP)9. Georgia: 36.3%

Retirement plan participation has been in a downturn, as we mentioned earlier, but in Georgia that decline has been particularly steep. Residents have seen the likelihood of their ability to participate in a retirement plan of some sort fall by a full 10% over the period of 2001-2010.

At that rate, their ability to relax in their golden years could be gone with the wind.

California state capitol in Sacramento. (Photo: AP)8. California: 36.2%

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2009 Hispanics made up 37% of the state’s population, and they are already at a disadvantage in opportunities to participate in a retirement plan.

That said, if you live and work in California, your best chance of having a retirement plan of some sort is to be a public sector employee. Out of 12.5 million private sector wage and salary employees between the ages of 21-64, only 35.5% participated in a retirement plan. However, out of 2.3 million public sector wage and salary employees in the same age bracket, 70.5% were able to participate in a plan to allow them to enjoy their retirement.

New Mexico state coin. (Photo: AP)7. New Mexico: 36.1%

Another high concentration of Hispanics, per the Pew Hispanic Center: 46%.

Here again, your best chance of participating in a retirement plan is to work in the public sector. Among private sector wage and salary employees between the ages of 21-64, only 31.4% had that opportunity. In the public sector, the odds were substantially better: 71.9%.

Idaho Potato Commision President Frank Muir in 2004. (Photo: AP)6. Idaho: 35.9%

Idaho is also known as the Gem State, although at sixth lowest in the country, obviously not for its retirement plan opportunities. No, the Gem State got its name because nearly every known gemstone has been found there. Residents may want to consider hunting for gemstones—or else potato farming—as an after-retirement career.

Myrtle Beach, S.C., sign. (Photo: AP)5. South Carolina: 35.7%

As have Georgians, South Carolina residents have seen the likelihood of their ability to participate in a retirement plan of some sort fall by a hefty margin—from 52.4% to 43.6%—over the period of 2001-2010.

Well, at least those with retirement plans can expect the golf course at Myrtle Beach not to be too crowded—and those without will have plenty of opportunities to find work in the tourist industry of the Outer Banks.

Mississippi state captiol in Jackson. (Photo: AP)4. Mississippi: 35.3%

Nothing to boast about here. While Mississippi ranks ninth from the bottom in cost of living in 2011, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Education Center (MERIC), it ranks eighth from the bottom in average wage levels, according to (In 2006, it ranked dead last in both categories.)

That, coupled with its low percentage of employees able to count on a retirement plan, means people had better love what they do for a living—because it looks as if they’ll be doing it for a long, long time.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans. (Photo: AP)3. Louisiana: 34.2%

Ah, gumbo and crawfish etoufée, blackened catfish, jambalaya, and beignets and coffee in Jackson Square; jazz and Hurricanes! (No, no, not the windy kind, the alcoholic variety. Although, if you have too many of the latter, you will be three sheets to the former. That is, if you can afford them.)

The delights of Louisiana are many, but not the pension plans. I will have to go out on my pirogue, me, into the bayou, and catch dinner—or stick to po’ boys.

Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas. (Photo: AP)1. Nevada: 33.4% (tie)

The Silver State is tarnished, thanks to the dubious distinction of being tied with Florida for the lowest participation in pension plans.

Workers might want to remember that if they fail to find an employer who offers them a plan, they’re gambling with their future. And the odds are against them.

Disney World in Florida. (Photo: AP)1. Florida: 33.4% (tie)

People may go to Florida to retire, but they’d best bring their pensions with them—because they won’t find many opportunities to participate in a retirement plan here. Instead of spending their senior days lazing on the beach, they’ll be toiling away taking care of those fortunate enough to have retired with a steady income—probably from somewhere else.








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