Americans often toil at 10 or more different jobs in their lifetimes. While that professional wanderlust definitely has its downsides, it can also offer considerable advantages.

The biggest drawback
Switching jobs too often can wreak havoc on your retirement. Some jobs offer benefits that only become available over time, such as stock options or the ever-more-elusive pension. If you depart too soon, you won't get them. In other cases, employers enforce waiting periods before you're fully vested -- or even allowed to participate -- in their retirement plans. Bailing before you've hit that mark can cost you years of valuable wealth-building time. And even if you've amassed a tidy sum in your employer-sponsored retirement account, you might be tempted to cash out your 401(k) when you leave a job, reducing your ultimate retirement nest egg.

On the other hand...
If you're a frequent job-hopper hoping to retire one day, don't freak out. None of those problems are insurmountable, and most can be easily solved with a bit of foresight and discipline. More importantly, changing jobs can sometimes be the best move you can make.

A new job might increase your pay, offer better benefits, or provide a 401(k) plan with better investment options. The following ratings from BrightScope.com reveal huge disparities in the quality of many prominent employers' retirement plans:

Company

Overall Quality

Company
Generosity

Investment Menu
Quality

Wal-Mart

49

Average

Average

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)

57

Above Average

Great

Citigroup (NYSE: C)

71

Below Average

Great

Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD)

50

Average

Above Average

Home Depot

54

Average

Above Average

Target (NYSE: TGT)

58

Average

Above Average

IBM (NYSE: IBM)

81

Above Average

Above Average

Ford (NYSE: F)

75

Average

Above Average

General Electric (NYSE: GE)

77

Above Average

Poor

Data: BrightScope. Overall quality rating is as reported in BrightScope rankings. Other categories as of March 5. Some companies above have multiple plans. Visit BrightScope.com to get the skinny on a particular plan.

More importantly, giving yourself the freedom to switch employers might help you find a job you truly love. That happiness could pay dividends both personally and financially. If you love what you're doing, you'll likely work harder -- and end up rewarded accordingly.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of General Electric, Home Depot, McDonald's, and Wal-Mart. The Home Depot and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.