I live in the Netherlands and before that I live in Israel/Palestine. I have a pretty good knowledge of the retirement(+severance) benefits system back home, and a mediocre knowledge of how it works here.
It's possible that I will be moving to the US (California) in a few months, accepting a forthcoming job offer. So far I've read the Wikipedia pages on 401(k) plans and IRA plans. But frankly, I don't have any context, I don't know the relevant legislation, don't know the customs, don't know what to expect... I'm just reading and thinking to myself "Wow, this sounds like a crappy benefits system; and the alternatives they offer you are all basically bad": No tax reduction, just deferment; money saved (which need to be invested for returns) instead of payment liability created; it being up to employers essentially to decide which plan you're offered (if at all?); no apparent protection of your savings against financial institution collapse (or is there?)
Now, I know the US is very cut-throat-Capitalist, so I suppose I should just assume that's what it's like; but maybe I have the wrong idea and I'm just missing some information?
So, the question is: How should I educate myself about the retirement and retirement-related benefits in the US (or specifically in California)?