If the 2008 economic meltdown or its aftermath left you unemployed, chances are it took a big bite out of your retirement planning.

Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies concluded that the people most likely to have lost their jobs and burned through their retirement savings were:

  • More than 40 years old — 65 percent.
  • Lacking a college degree — 63 percent.
  • Male — 54 percent.
  • Single — 54 percent.

If you are in that hole, here are six ideas for finding work, digging out and salvaging your retirement, some of them from Transamerica:

Embrace public service. On average, 85 percent of policemen, firefighters, teachers, mayors, judges and other publicly employed officials are entitled to old-fashioned pensions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Join the union. Unions are still fighting hard to ensure that their members have retirement options. Look for union jobs.

Prefer jobs that come with 401(k)s. If you can find an employer who will contribute to your 401(k), that position can be a winner even if the pay isn’t as high as that of another job.

Start a business in your spare time. Open your own individual 401(k) and contribute as much as the law will allow — up to $49,000 in 2011 (including an additional “catch-up contribution” of $5,500 if you are age 50 or older), depending on income. Even if you can’t contribute the maximum, this plan will allow you to rebuild your retirement savings quickly.

Go back to school. There are dozens of well-paying jobs that you can get with a two-year associate degree. Don’t be put off by the cost. You can deduct most of the tuition and fees from your taxes. There also are grants available from the government and community organization that will help pay the freight without further draining your bank account.

Relentlessly pay down debt. Do what it takes to get out from under credit card and mortgage debt. If you can pay off your house, you can live comfortably on less.

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