Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University recently announced Jacquida Mars has been appointed the new director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), which serves as a cultural resource for students, faculty, and staff, as well as providing direction and services for current and prospective students from underrepresented populations. Through creative and innovative programs, the office enhances cultural knowledge and produces a deeper appreciation for diversity and inclusion throughout the campus community.

“I am honored and overjoyed to hold such an important role at the university,” Mars said. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to impact and change the lives and futures of our students through mentoring, advocacy, social-justice education, and programming. In particular, I want students of color and first-generation students to feel that OMA will be a valuable resource for them in their academic journey from the moment they step on campus until graduation.”

Before joining Bay Path, Mars served as assistant director of Alumni & Parent Engagement for Affinity & Identity Programs at Connecticut College, where she successfully developed a mentoring program for BIPOC students and alumni. Prior to her time at Connecticut College, she contributed to the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts as the Career Programming manager/GA DEI at Trinity College.

Mars earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and crime, law & justice from the University of Connecticut, and a master’s degree in public policy from Trinity College. She is currently enrolled in a doctorate program in educational leadership for social justice at the University of Hartford.

Daily News

Trent Rivers

EASTHAMPTON — Hometown Mortgage recently promoted Trent Rivers to equity and consumer loan manager, based in Easthampton.

Rivers has 15 years of banking experience, including his most recent role as loan specialist. He joined Hometown Mortgage as a consumer loan coordinator in 2017. Prior to that, he was a branch supervisor at NBT Bank.

Rivers has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Westfield State University and completed coursework in the school of banking at the Pennsylvania Bankers Assoc.

Daily News

Jessica West 

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB recently promoted Jessica West to assistant vice president, branch officer of its 36 Main St., Easthampton office.

West has 31 years of banking experience. She was previously assistant vice president, branch manager in Amherst. Before that, she was branch manager at the Northampton Street, Easthampton office, and before that, assistant branch manager at the Belchertown office. She started at bankESB in 2002 as senior teller in Belchertown.

West earned an associate degree in mechanical technologies from Springfield Technical Community College. She has been actively involved with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst and Craig’s Doors, helping prepare free community breakfasts every week. She also volunteers at the Amherst Survival Center. She is currently a board member of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

Daily News

AMHERST — A team of researchers at UMass Amherst has developed the first dual-color optoelectronic neural probe. Unlike previous, single-color probes, which often control brain activity in only one direction — excitation or inhibition, but not both — this new design can enhance and silence the electrical activities of the same neurons within specific cortical layers of the brain. It promises to aid the investigation of tightly packed neural microcircuits within the cortex and deep-brain regions and, in the longer term, add to the functional mapping of the brain.

Guangyu Xu, assistant associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, appointee of the Dev and Linda Gupta Professorship at UMass Amherst, and principal investigator of the study, hopes the device can ultimately help researchers identify the origin of brain diseases.

The device is based on optogenetics, a method to control neural activity using light, Xu explained. “We are able to send one of two colors of light — red or blue — to the brain to let neurons within each cortical layer become more active or more silent, as you can tell from electrical neural recording signals. This capability, namely bidirectional optogenetic electrophysiology, will lend itself to high-resolution interrogation of the brain circuitry and shed light on animal disease models.”

He added that bidirectional control is a crucial feature for advancing the understanding of diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. “For instance, with epilepsy, you may need to silence certain regions of the brain, not to activate them. That requirement is one of our motivations in building such dual-color devices. The second color on the probe adds flexibility in optical control over the brain.”

Building such devices is not trivial, requiring different optoelectronic materials to be packed into a small footprint — less than a millimeter in size — with low crosstalk to each other. “We developed a high-yield integration approach in this work,” Xu said.

Published in Cell Reports Physical Science, this work marks the first preliminary test of this technology, showcasing the power of the device to provide a high spatial resolution and bidirectional control of the brain in mice.

“What we did on mice is turn on those blue or red LEDs to shut off or turn on the same local brain circuits,” Xu said, “and this spatial resolution comes down to specific cortical layers, which has been suggested in the recording traces.”

He anticipates that future research will extend to testing the device on other parts of the body, possibly outside the brain.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

Kristine Koistinen

Kristine Koistinen says Enfield’s long-awaited rail stop is creating a great deal of anticipation in the community, as well as growing interest from developers.


For decades now, a rail stop in Enfield, Conn. on the line from Springfield to Hartford, New Haven, and points south has been a dream.

Finally, the dream is becoming reality.

Indeed, the Connecticut Department of Transportation made it real several weeks ago when it attached hard dates to the $45 million project to build a train station in the section of Enfield called Thompsonville, in the shadow of apartment buildings created at the sprawling former Bigelow Carpet complex.

Those dates include the summer of 2024 for the final design to be completed, the winter of 2025 for the construction bid to be awarded, the spring of 2027 for accompanying rail and bridge work to be completed, and the fall of 2027 for completion of the station and platform.

While a formal ribbon cutting is almost four years away, there is already a great deal of anticipation and excitement in this community of just over 42,000 — as well as interest from the development community, said Town Manager Chris Bromson, adding that the train stop will be, in a word, “transformational.”

“When you look at any of the other transit-oriented districts in Connecticut, it’s been just a boon to economic development and housing,” he told BusinessWest. “If you look at Meriden and other cities in Connecticut that have gotten a train stop, you’ve seen dramatic growth, so we’re very excited, to say the least.”

Elaborating, he said momentum toward a rail station has prompted developers to take options on several properties near the riverfront in the area near the planned station, including an old Eversource power plant, and he expects such interest to only escalate in the months and years to come.

“If you build it, they will come,” he said. “And two years is going to go by in a heartbeat, and developers … they don’t want to miss the train. They want to get in on the ground floor now because those properties are going to be hot.”

Meanwhile, the rail station is just one of many intriguing developments in this community, said Kristine Koistinen, Community Development specialist and also acting Economic Development director. Others include likely redevelopment of the dying mall known as Enfield Square; redevelopment of the former Strand Theater into housing; revitalization of the historic Hazardville Institute into a mixed-use facility that will become, among other things, home to the North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce; the recent conversion of the former United Presbyterian Church into the new home for the Opera House Players; and the expected arrival next year of L.L.Bean in the Brookside Plaza.

“It’s back to the future. Today, young people … they really aren’t interested in cars the same way that previous generations were; they want to jump on the train. They want to live in places like Thompsonville and jump on the train and go to New York for the weekend or go to Boston.”

“It’s a very exciting time in Enfield; there’s a lot going on and a lot to get excited about,” she said, adding that there are new developments in many different parts of the community, including Thompsonville, Hazardville, the retail district, and others.

Those sentiments apply to one of the community’s largest institutions as well.

Indeed, Asnuntuck Community College, which marked its 50th anniversary this year, is now known as CT State Community College Asnuntuck. It is one of 12 community colleges, some with satellites, that came together in a merger (creating CT State Community College) that has been years in the making, with the goal of bringing a number of advantages and new opportunities to the colleges, but especially students, said Michelle Coach, Asnuntuck CEO.

“What’s amazing for the students is that they apply once, and they can register on any campus anywhere in the state,” she explained. “In the past, we used to share less than 1% of our students among the 12; we now share about 28% of our students.”

But while the merger is generating new opportunities, Asnuntuck and all the other CT State schools are coping with budget cuts, and more dramatic cuts to come in the future unless the governor and Legislature reverse course and increase their overall commitment to public higher education (more on that later).

As for Enfield Square, it has been in a state of deterioration for several years, with the loss of anchors such as Macy’s, JCPenney, and Sears. It was acquired by New York-based Namdar Realty Group in 2019 amid hopes that there would be investment in the facility and the securing of new tenants. However, it has continued to decline, and there is growing speculation that it may be sold to a developer who will raze all or most of what exists and create a mixed-use facility that may include everything from retail to housing.

planned new housing

An architect’s rendering of the planned new housing to take shape at the site of the former Strand Theater.

A few developers have expressed interest, said Bromson, who declined to name them, adding that Enfield Square may follow the same path as Springfield’s Eastfield Mall, which is currently being demolished in favor of new development following the relocation of several dozen mostly smaller tenants. In fact, Koistinen has talked with officials in Springfield about the Eastfield Mall project and the relocation of tenants there.

For the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest focuses on Enfield, the arrival of rail service, and the many other forms of progress in this community.


Train of Thought

Bromson is on his second stint as town manager in Enfield — he held that post from 2019 to 2021, when he resigned, only to return just last month. Overall, he’s spent more than 33 years working for the town in various capacities, including town attorney, Public Safety director, and acting town manager.

For all that time and more, securing a rail stop in town has been a dream and a true priority for the community, for reasons made obvious by looking at similar communities that have a stop. In those cities and towns, development has followed, Bromson noted, adding that there has been significant reversal of the development strategies of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s that focused on the automobile and creating infrastructure to support its use.

“It’s back to the future,” he went on. “Today, young people … they really aren’t interested in cars the same way that previous generations were; they want to jump on the train. They want to live in places like Thompsonville and jump on the train and go to New York for the weekend or go to Boston.”

Elaborating, he said Enfield’s station will be more than a metro stop, bringing people to Hartford to work; it will also be a larger hub for Amtrak for more distant destinations. Coupled with the planned spur off the Windsor Locks stop that will bring people to Bradley International Airport, it’s easy to see why a rail station is generating such enthusiasm.

“You can come down to the Enfield station, park — there will be ample parking here — get on the train, take the spur to Bradley, and get on a plane, and never have to deal with the parking or the congestion there,” Bromson said.

the historic Hazardville Institute

Renovation of the historic Hazardville Institute is one of many developing stories in Enfield.

While the rail plans are generating excitement among residents and officials, they are also gaining the attention of the development community, with more interest certainly to come, said those we spoke with.

Bromson said the rail service will likely generate interest in development of more housing, such as the hugely successful Bigelow Commons, now home to more than 2,000 people.

And if more housing becomes reality — and renovation of the former Strand Theater is already set to move off the drawing board — there will be a need for more retail and service businesses, said Koistinen, adding that such need will likely help fill some of the many vacant storefronts and other properties in Thompsonville, but also other parts of the city.

Enfield at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1683
Population: 42,141
Area: 34.2 square miles
County: Hartford
Residential Tax Rate: $30.56
Commercial Tax Rate: $30.56
Median Household Income: $67,402
Median Family Income: $77,554
Type of Government: Town Council, Town Manager
Largest Employers: Empower Retirement LLC, Town of Enfield, LEGO, Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center, Eppendorf Manufacturing
* Latest information available

“For decades, people have been talking about how we revitalize Thompsonville,” she said. “Having the train come is the first step in all of this; here are several vacant properties there, and having the train station so close — that walkability to the downtown — will provide a real boost.”

Overall, there is a sizable trickle-down effect from the rail service, said Bromson, adding that it will likely extend to places like Enfield Square. Indeed, the station will be an intermodal transit center that will send buses and shuttles to locations such as the shopping areas off I-91.

This includes Enfield Square, he noted, adding that the community is talking to developers about the future of the site, while also working with existing tenants to help promote them and prepare them for eventual transition. “I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have a good result there in the near future.”


Course of Action

There have been several good results from the merger of the state’s community colleges, a process that has been in motion for more than seven years now, Coach noted.

The new infrastructure brings benefits for the schools, including additional buying power and greater ability to collaborate and share ideas, concepts, and, yes, students.

Indeed, she said there are students who now attend classes at as many as five different schools, taking advantage of each school’s specialty, such as Asnuntuck’s manufacturing program.

Indeed, Asnuntuck now boasts 1,329 students who call the campus home, and another 886 who call another school home but attend at least one class in Enfield, boosting enrollment and bringing more energy and vitality to the campus.

“If the governor doesn’t give us more money, that’s going to hurt our students — that’s what we’re worried about right now.”

Overall, said the merger has brought about a harmonized processing system across the 12 campuses, while allowing each school to maintain its own identity and culture.

“I’ve always said to the employees, our culture is our people, and we have our people,” Coach said. “We can give our students what they need, and I don’t think we’ve changed. But at the same time, they can now register anywhere, we have some amazing processes, and we just hired a behavioral-health counselor for the first time. We’ve always wanted an in-house counselor, and we haven’t been able to do so. By becoming CT State, every campus is getting at least one counselor.”

The merged system is still only a few months old, she said, adding that it will continue to evolve, hone processes, and bring new opportunities and greater collaboration — something that was missing historically — between the individual campuses and their students.

And greater collaboration will be needed because there are many current budget challenges, and deeper cuts likely to come in the year ahead.

“We are underfunded right now,” she said, noting that the system recently cut $33.6 million for this fiscal year, with Asnuntuck slicing roughly $500,000, in large part because elected leaders would not raise the spending limit for the state.

Asnuntuck was able to avoid personnel cuts this fiscal year, but it may not be so fortunate in FY 2025, when an additional $41.3 million will have to be cut, unless already-intense lobbying efforts succeed in garnering more support from the state.

“If the governor doesn’t give us more money, that’s going to hurt our students — that’s what we’re worried about right now,” she told BusinessWest. “And, of course, these are the students that need the help.”


The Road Ahead


high-speed EV chargers

Gary Rome has made a major investment in high-speed EV chargers, with capacity for more when demand increases.

The car-shopping experts at Edmunds say opposing market forces are expected to keep new vehicle sales relatively steady in 2024, forecasting that 15.7 million new cars will be sold. That forecast represents a 1% increase from its estimate of 15.5 million new vehicle sales in 2023. Meanwhile, electric-vehicle (EV) market share is expected to tick slightly higher to 8% of total new vehicle sales in 2024, up from 6.9% in 2023 to date through November.

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ head of Insights, noted that “2023 experienced improved inventory levels from pandemic-era lows combined with pent-up demand to deliver strong sales, estimated up 12.7% year over year. While the year ahead holds the promise of further increased inventory and enticing deals that consumers have eagerly awaited, 2023’s high interest rates are expected to linger, provoking conflicting market dynamics. Automakers specifically will weigh one other key consideration in 2024: are they satisfied with this newly established supply-demand equilibrium, or are they willing and able to push sales volumes closer to pre-pandemic norms?”

Gary Rome, president and CEO of Gary Rome Auto Group, told BusinessWest that carmakers are responding to high interest rates by pushing 0% financing promotions, or close to it. At his two dealerships, he noted that Hyundai is offering 0%, and Kia is offering 0.9%.

“People have been buying the same car, and their payment is $80 to $100 more because of the higher interest rates,” he explained. “So manufacturers are starting to do something about it with low-rate financing.”

Edmunds put together a list of the three biggest industry trends it predicts will shape the road ahead in 2024.


New-vehicle Prices Will Plateau

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a series of significant vehicle price hikes, first from consumers leveraging low interest rates to buy larger, well-equipped vehicles, and later from out-of-whack demand due to supply shortages. But Edmunds data reveals pricing has peaked, as improved inventory has driven incentives back into the market.

Shoppers seeking options on the affordable side of the new-vehicle market, however, will have a tougher time as those vehicles are selling quicker than their more expensive counterparts, the reversal of a trend witnessed from the fall of 2020 through the fall of 2021.


EVs Will Continue to Disrupt Brand Loyalty

A lack of consumer brand loyalty creates opportunities for electric-vehicle makers to win over buyers in the still-early stages of EV adoption, considered even more impactful given today’s lower overall sales rates relative to pre-2020 levels.

With brands jockeying for pole position in the EV adoption race, Edmunds’ experts note that shoppers ready to make the switch to electric should see plenty of incentives in 2024, even before tax credits kick in. As of November, EVs saw the largest discounts by powertrain at $2,326 below MSRP on average, compared to an industry average of $1,006 discounted.

Locally, Rome said he carries a lot of electric vehicles, but consumers are still wary about availability of charging stations. Still, he recently installed six high-speed ‘superchargers’ at Gary Rome Hyundai and has capacity for 10 more when the need develops.

“Our percentage of EV sales is only around 10%, so it’s a lot of investment for only 10% of sales,” he added. “When we see a trend toward more EV sales, we’ll certainly invest in more chargers.”


Hybrid Sales Share Will Grow Further

Edmunds experts say the transition to full EVs has slowed, and hybrids are the more comfortable choice for the majority of Americans seeking electrified options right now.

According to Edmunds data, hybrid market share increased to 9.7% in November from 4.9% the year prior, representing 99% growth. Over that same time period, EVs increased just 25% in share.

Hybrids are transacting more quickly and at less of a discount than both EVs and pure gas competitors, the report notes. “If you’re on the hybrid versus EV fence and prefer leasing, Edmunds experts suggest EVs could be the way to go due to available inventory, discounts, and rebates. But if you’re a drive-it-until-the-wheels-fall-off shopper and are set on a hybrid purchase, you might be best off placing an order rather than scouring local lots in search of a strong deal.”


Biting Comments


Jim Kinney

Jim Kinney says Altus Dental is well-positioned to handle the seismic changes taking place in the dental-insurance landscape.


Jim Kinney acknowledged that it will certainly take some time before the full impact of changes to the dental-insurance landscape in the Bay State — specifically a successful ballot initiative requiring insurers to dedicate 83% of revenue from premiums to patient care — is known.

But already, that landscape is changing, and in profound ways, said Kinney, vice president of Sales and Business Relations for Rhode Island-based Altus Dental, noting that several insurers have announced their intention to withdraw from the small-plan market in Massachusetts as a result of the measure, and more will likely do so in the months to come.

Altus isn’t one of them, he said, adding that the company is committed to staying in Massachusetts and continuing to provide small-plan coverage, despite the many challenges inherent with doing so.

“There’s been some contraction — five carriers have notified the Commonwealth that they’ll be exiting the market,” he told BusinessWest. “So right now, small group is really … turbulent. That’s the word I would choose to use; there’s going to be a lot of change.

“But we’re really committed to staying in the market,” he went on, adding that Altus prefers to look at these companies exiting the small-business market as an opportunity, one that will require an even greater emphasis on efficiency, something the company has always made a priority, and creating more volume — assignments we’ll hear more about later.

Meanwhile, beyond the turbulence, the companies exiting the small-market segment will be “doubling down,” as Kinney put it, on the large-market component, creating more competition and more challenges in the segment.

But Altus sees opportunities there as well, he said, adding that 2024 will certainly be an intriguing year, to say the least, as it looks to continue growing its membership in Massachusetts, which is currently about 230,000.

“We’ve been on a good growth trajectory, and with the market changes coming next year and going forward, we’re really expecting to see new sales in small group,” he said, adding that, in this environment, there is even more strength in numbers.

For this issue and its focus on insurance, BusinessWest talked at length with Kinney about how Altus, which has been steadily growing market share in Massachusetts, intends to continue its pattern of growth amid the tumultuous changes in the market.


Some Things to Chew On

In the run-up to the November 2022 election, insurers issued not-so-subtle warnings to Bay State residents that, if the ballot question passed, carriers would likely flee the state, leaving fewer options, especially in the small-plan market, and, more alarmingly, more people without dental insurance.

But, backed by the American Dental Assoc. and local dentists, the referendum question passed with ease, bringing dental insurers in line with healthcare insurers that are required by Obamacare to allocate 83% from premiums to patient care.

Now, some of those warnings are coming to pass.

Ameritas Dental Network and Principal dental insurance recently notified the National Assoc. of Health Plans, of which they are members, of their intention to abandon the Massachusetts small market. Those moves follow the announcement in August that Guardian Life Insurance, one of the country’s largest mutual insurance companies, had notified small businesses in Massachusetts that it would no longer provide dental insurance as a result of the ballot question.

And others will likely follow suit, said Kinney, who, when asked if the market was done shaking out, said simply, “there’s more to come.”

“The legislation goes into effect Jan. 1, but it’s going to be delayed, at least with some aspects of it,” he told BusinessWest. “We’re going to see more companies exiting the market, and unfortunately, that’s not a good thing for the health of the market.”

The small-business component comprises roughly 80% of the market in Massachusetts, with about 46,000 client companies, said Kinney, adding that this is a very large slice of the dental-insurance pie in the Bay State.

Now, there will be fewer players contending for slices of that pie, a scenario that, as noted, comes with opportunities and challenges, and probably more of the latter than the former, which is why companies are exiting the small-business market here.

“The numbers are very difficult; it’s difficult to make it work for carriers — they’re being really restricted,” he said of what’s known as the medical-loss ratio that is now being applied to dental insurers. “We have a bit of a different model — we’re more efficient, and we run a lot of new business on a much tighter margin than many can.”

And this efficiency, this ability to thrive on much tighter margins, will be ever-more important, said Kinney, who used some simple math to get his points across about this new regulation and why so many companies have decided to exit the small-business market.

He said a commercial market medical-insurance premium runs about $600 per month on average; this contrasts with $35 for a dental PPO and $20 for a dental HMO. Despite this huge monetary gap, dental and medical plans perform most of the same administrative tasks. That’s why most of the industry has long held that dental insurers should not be subject to the same medical loss ratio, in this case more than 80%.

Such numbers explain why, in this environment, there will be a premium on efficiency and providing value, he said, and with fewer competing players, on top of the new regulation, there will be added pressure on premium costs.

“We’re committed to being fiscally responsible, keeping premiums affordable, and focusing on high value for the premium,” he said. “But I do have concerns that less competition will erode some of that for the market. But our commitment is to remain affordable, with a good focus on value for our members.”

And one of the keys to keeping premiums affordable will be efficiency, Kinney noted.

“We’ve gotten down to a process with our technology where we get a lot done in a simple way,” he said. “I think we’ve just done a really good job of using technology to focus on getting the right things done in the most efficient way. Also, many of our employees have been here for 20 years, so they really understand our systems very well, and they can make things happen quickly.”

Elaborating, he said this emphasis on technology, such as electronic data files, enables Altus to sped up the approval process on many procedures and process claims more quickly, thus improving overall customer satisfaction.


Bottom Line

As noted earlier, this changing environment puts additional emphasis on both size and efficiency, Kinney said, adding that Altus, which, unlike some carriers, focuses exclusively on dental, is better-positioned to thrive in this climate than its smaller and larger competitors.

“We’re small enough that we’re nimble and able to make changes and really meet the demands of the market very quickly,” he explained. “But our infrastructure is large enough to handle the administration and be able to actually support all the things that go into this.

“We understand that this legislation is going to impact us financially, there will some challenges, and the policy is going to bring some negative consequences for Massachusetts,” he went on. “But with our 20 years of experience focused on dental and our position as one of the fastest-growing companies, we really think we’re well-positioned to navigate this market and the changes and challenges that are going on.”

Accounting and Tax Planning

Setting the Course

By Barbara Trombley, CPA, MBA


As we usher in the new year, it is an opportune time to make financial resolutions that will secure your financial future. Whether you are new to investing and personal financial planning or you are approaching retirement and contemplating estate planning, here are some tips for making the most of your financial life in 2024.

“Peace of mind comes with knowing you can cover unexpected expenses in the case of emergency or job loss.”

Build or Enhance Your Emergency Fund

In an era marked by economic uncertainty, we all need a robust emergency fund. This means having three to six months of living expenses in a money market or high-yield savings account. Peace of mind comes with knowing you can cover unexpected expenses in the case of emergency or job loss.


Pay Down Debt

In today’s world of high interest rates, it is imperative to not carry ‘bad debt.’ What is bad debt? Credit cards, personal loans, and some car loans are all examples. The interest on some of these debt instruments can be financially crippling. Come up with a plan to tackle the debt sooner rather than later.


Review Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three nationwide credit bureaus. To get the free credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com. Review for any inaccuracies and report them right away. Make a plan to increase your score, if needed, by making timely payments and attacking outstanding debt. A strong credit score is the key to favorable interest rates when financing a house, car, or other business opportunities.


Meet Your Match

Many companies offer a match in contributions to retirement plans. There is a reason this is called ‘free money.’ You do not have to earn the money. You need to contribute enough to get the match that the company provides. Most companies match 50% or 100% of your contribution, up to a certain percentage.


Increase Your Retirement Contributions

Beyond just getting a match, you should increase your retirement-plan contributions each year and certainly when receiving any type of raise or bonus. The 2024 contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans is increased to $23,000, up from $22,500. The catch-up contribution for those turning 55 or older in 2024 is $7,500. The limit on annual contributions to an IRA plan will increase to $7,000, up from $6,500. If you are over 55, the limit is $8,000.

Also consider whether a Roth 401(k) or IRA is a good option for you. You need to weigh whether it is more advantageous to pay taxes now or later on to the contributions to your retirement accounts. Having both a traditional retirement account and a Roth retirement account may give you the tax flexibility that you need in retirement.


Review Social Security

Social Security makes up the bulk of many Americans’ retirement income. Do you know how much you will get at full retirement age? Do you know that you receive about 30% less if you take your social security payment at age 62? Do you know that you can wait until age 70 to begin your payments and realize a significant pay increase of 8% for each year that you wait? Be cognizant of how much you can anticipate receiving in retirement and how much your spouse will receive. Work with a financial planner to strategize the possibility of staggering claiming ages to reach your retirement goals.


Do a Pension Calculation

About 20% of Americans receive a pension. This is a stream of payments that come each month in retirement. Do the research now to calculate at what age your pension will be maximized. Also, find out what options you may have in retirement to provide for a spouse. There also may be the ability to consider a lump-sum payment in lieu of monthly payments. Knowing all your options will allow you to calculate how much additional money you may need to save to have an enjoyable retirement.


Consult a Financial Planner

It is never too early or too late to see if you are on track for retirement. A good financial planner is a trained professional in the field and can assist you in setting and achieving your financial goals. A financial planner can also evaluate your investment options and suggest suitable investments for your risk profile. Many planners will also help optimize your tax strategy and possibly save you money in the long run.


Barbara Trombley is a financial planner with Wilbraham-based Trombley Associates Investment and Retirement Planning. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Trombley Associates, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking investment advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.