Announcing GreenShield’s Acquisition!

Announcing GreenShield’s Acquisition!

We have some exciting news for our friends, partners and clients. We can now publicly announce that GreenShield was acquired by a private equity firm earlier this year!

This acquisition gives us the flexibility to refocus and reboot in a way that lets us best serve Americans as they grapple with emergency, healthcare and retirement savings. We’re already well on our way with several pilots in progress.

We’re happy to share more info with you directly – send us a note at partners@greenshield.io – and we’ll get back to you with the details.

Important changes to your GreenShield account


What’s happening?

A year and a half ago, we entered the benefits and wellness space. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of employees better their financial lives through GreenShield’s education, tools and services.

Unfortunately, a business can’t survive without a steady stream of revenue to support it. Given both the historically difficult economic times and the dozens of free consumer products out there, we’ve had a hard time charging employers for GreenShield.

As a result, we’ve made the difficult decision that GreenShield will cease operations in 2 weeks as of April 29th, 2016.


Here’s what this means for you and your account

  1. You have until end of day Wednesday, April 27th 2016 to withdraw your Dynamic Savings balance and/or disconnect your linked accounts. Not to worry, any left over funds in your Dynamic Savings balance after that date will be automatically withdrawn to your checking account, and any linked account will be automatically disconnected.
  2. All user data will be deleted on Friday, April 29th 2016.

For those of you who enjoyed GreenShield’s tools have a few free tools you can use. For employees who really loved our Dynamic Savings tool, we’d recommend you check out Digit (www.digit.co) and/or Acorns (www.acorns.com). For employees who wanted help creating a debt payoff plan, we’d recommend you check out ReadyForZero (www.readyforzero.com).

From all of us at GreenShield, we’d like to thank you for using, contributing to, and helping us grow the site. We’re committed to making sure this transition period goes smoothly for you.


What if I have specific questions?

Feel free to reach out to us at contact@greenshield.io with any questions you may have.

 

Monthly Review: What prices at the pump have to do with smoking, stocks and unemployment

If you haven’t already noticed at your last trip to the gas station, gas prices are the lowest they’ve been since the 90s– affecting everything from your stock portfolio, US unemployment, and cigarette consumption.

Here’s what happened

Gas prices are below $2 for the first time in a decade—and this has been going on for 25 days and counting. Americans across the nation are rejoicing—taking road trips, pocketing the extra spending money—smiles all around.

But wait—are we premature in our celebration? What do these falling gas prices really mean?

What it means for you

Well, for one, it means that people are driving more (the equivalent of 337 round trips from here to Pluto, in fact). And bad news, that means more traffic. The Texas A&M Travel Institute found that rush hour travelers spent an extra 42 hours on the road last year due to increased traffic. More time on the road has also has lead to an 8% uptick in motor vehicle accidents, which equates to 38,000 deaths— the largest increase in 50 years! This rise in accidents has had a financial impact on drivers; with the total cost of deaths, injuries and property damage totaling more than $400 billion last year.

There’s also been another interesting little side effect of slashed gas prices— cigarette sales are up for the first time in 9 years. Cheap gas has a disproportionate impact on cigarette sales because smokers tend to have lower incomes on average and the majority of cigarette sales (60%) take place at gas stations. Analysts have seen this increase in discretionary income (via savings at the pump) as the largest driving factor behind this spike.

On a more macro scale, a major factor that causes fluctuations in gas prices is the price of crude oil. And crude oil prices have been taking a dive lately—for reasons including depressed global demand for oil and excess supply as well as increased domestic production.

This dip in prices has also hit the oil sector hard—many of these companies are facing bankruptcies and consolidations this year, with dozens of small drillers having already filed for bankruptcy, and some of the larger operators predicted to follow in suit. The energy boom had been fueled by really expensive drilling tech that was paid for by lots of debt…. which is now becoming pretty tough to pay off. With all of these companies closing shop, about 250,000 people are now out of a job—and that number is growing every day.

And don’t think that if you’re not in the oil and gas business, you’re off the hook—this will affect your stock portfolio, too. As the price of oil and gas continues to go down, so does the stock market as a whole).

What you can do about it

• Actually save the money that you would have spent on gas— be conscious of how much you’re saving additionally and instead of letting it fall through the cracks, put that towards paying off your car, credit card, or student loans faster. Or use it to build up your emergency fund (psst… you can do that automatically through GreenShield—if your company doesn’t have an account yet, click here). Depending on how much you drive, these savings can actually make a pretty big difference in improving the overall health of your financial profile.

• Look into buying a fuel-efficient car. It sounds counterintuitive, as people are rushing to buy gas guzzling SUVs and trucks now that it’s more affordable to do so. But that means you might be able to snag hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars at a discount, which makes it a perfect time to buy. And another tip—gas prices won’t stay low forever—in fact, they’re anticipated to climb in the coming months as refineries make the switch over from winter gas to more costly summer gas—so it’ll pay off long-term for you when prices spring back up.

And as we mentioned in our last post—if you’re seeing your 401k take a hit, don’t panic. Yes, if your entire portfolio is comprised of oil and gas, you’ll probably see the overall value of your portfolio take a plunge. However, if you’re well diversified, you should probably see your portfolio go up overall over the long-term, as the market as a whole rises.

Questions? Let me know in the comments, via email at ashley@greenshield.io, or tweet at @getgreenshield.

Monthly Review: Stocks are off to their worst start in over a century

The biggest news this year is the roller coaster ride of the stock markets — recently, the stock market has been anything but predictable—setting many on edge.

Here’s what happened
Unpredictable is probably an understatement—stocks tumbled 10% in the first few weeks of 2016 and the first 12 days of 2016 were declared the worst-ever in terms of stock returns since 1897.

What it means for you
If you’re like most people, the recent stock market volatility may have made your stomach drop. It’s hard to watch your portfolio drop 10% and not want to panic and pull your money out. But as it turns out, that’s actually the opposite of what you should do. This might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re in you’re in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, this volatility might actually be a really good thing for you.

Yeah, you heard right— long-term investors might even see this as an opportunity to snatch up bargain stocks. If you’re 20, and assuming an average life expectancy of 80, you have a 60-year investment horizon. And the good news is: over the long-term, you’ll be fine. You have decades to recover from losses—what’s more, studies show that over periods of 18 years or more, there hasn’t been a period where the stock market hasn’t had higher returns than bonds or cash. So turn off the news, and tuck in for the long haul.

What you can do about it
Experts recommend that you take this opportunity to make sure that you have a risk-adjusted portfolio that is in line with a set investment strategy personalized to your goals and tolerance for risk. This strategy, called an “investment policy statement” should outline how much to invest in different asset classes (US small and large cap stocks, international stocks, investment grade bonds, and even alternative assets like real estate securities) given your personal preferences—and stays constant no matter fluctuations in the market. This statement, rather than your emotions, should dictate when you sell and buy to rebalance your portfolio.

This has been proven historically—in various market declines, investors who panicked and sold when the market dropped ended up missing out on opportunities to 1) buy at a deep discount, and 2) ride out the gains when the market recovered. As another side note—most of the market’s 10 best days over the last 20 years were within just 2 weeks of the 10 worst days. Again, unless you’re willing to bear the pain of market drops, you won’t be able to reap the rewards of eventual gains.

The only caveat here is that if you do have assets that you will need in the short-term (say, you’re looking to retire in a couple of years or need money as a down payment for a house you’re buying next year), you might need to tweak your strategy slightly. Best strategy here is to sit down with a financial advisor and figure out how much to pull from long-term accounts and invest safely—probably in lower risk investments such as short-term government bonds or a money market fund. Remember: the priority here is to minimize losses, not actively pursue gains.

Monthly Review: Look out for interest rates!

The biggest news this month is that interest rates are increasing for the first time in nine years. You heard right, nine.

Here’s what happened

Over the past 9 years, the interest rate has been held at pretty much zero to promote economic recovery in the wake of the recession. On Wednesday, December 16, the Fed declared that it is finally raising its key interest rate by 0.25%—marking the first of what’s predicted to be a serious of gradual increases.

What it means for you

The interest rate being zero meant that the cost of borrowing money was also effectively zero. The interest rate rising is a sign of economic recovery, but has a lot of implications for Americans across the country.

  • Things are about to get more expensive—buying a car (if you’re taking out an auto loan), house (if you’re taking out a home loan), private student loans, and your credit card debt. However, these changes will not be immediate, so you don’t have to act right now. It’s a good thing to keep in mind though as you plan out big purchases for the year, though.
  • If you’re a good saver, you’re finally about to be rewarded. Over the past 9 years, there has been effectively no return from parking your money in a savings account, with the very low interest rates offered by banks. As banks charge more in interest to borrowers (as the big banks have already begun to do!), they will eventually pass some of those savings to savers (not yet, but stay tuned!)
  • This may also affect your investments (stocks, bonds, and even what’s in your 401k). It’s predicted that this may trigger volatility in the stock market. When the interest rates were essentially zero, more people put money in the stock market, because that was the only place they could see a measurable return (since returns on savings were practically negligible). Now, that’s about to change.
  • If you’re planning on traveling, you may get more bang for your buck. The dollar is expected to get stronger, which is great for that vacation to the south of Spain you may have planned. Unfortunately, not so great for large American companies like Apple or Nike, which sell their products abroad.

What can you do about it

  • Don’t fret. Though rates are set to increase, the increase will be gradual. Experts estimate that there will be relatively little impact on consumers for 2016. So breathe. You have time to figure it all out.
  • That being said… if you’re looking to refinance, now might be a good time—a typical 30 year fixed rate mortgage is 3.9% right now, but historically, they’ve been twice as high. It might be a good idea to lock into a lower fixed rate now.
  • Start trying to pay off high interest rate debt (always a good idea) or transfer your balances to a 0% credit card. On the saving side of things, you could start shopping around for higher rates on interest-bearing accounts to try to reap the rewards of being a good saver.

Interested in reading more about the interest rate hike?

Check out these articles for more information

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/federal-funds-rate-rising-interest-rates/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/12/16/everything-you-need-to-know-about-how-the-rate-hike-will-affect-your-wallet/

http://ebn.benefitnews.com/blog/ebviews/4-things-to-tell-401k-plan-participants-about-interest-rate-hikes-2747916-1.html

Questions? Let me know in the comments or tweet at @getgreenshield.

Monthly Review: Pay Off Student Loans or Build Up A Nest Egg?

In our monthly review, we round up relevant events that occurred in the news and go over what happened, what those events mean for you, and what you can do about it.

Today, we’ll be reviewing Forbes’ article on whether to allocate your savings to your student loans or to your nest egg. You can read the full article here.

What happened:
• Forbes discussed whether you should pay off your student loans first or contribute to your nest egg

What it means for you:
• Takeaways:
-If you have loans that have an 8% interest rate or higher, focus on paying down your loans first
-If you have loans that have a super low interest rate (e.g. 2 or 3%), you might be better off putting that money towards your retirement

What you can do about it:
• If you have low interest rate student loans and an employer 401k match, you’ll end up with more money overall by contributing to the 401k, so max out your 401k
• If you have higher interest rate loans, look into refinancing, but keep in mind that if your loans are public and you refinance through a private lender, you could lose some of the special protections federal loans carry (e.g. deferment and forbearance)

Questions? Email ashley@greenshield.io or tweet at @getgreenshield here.

Monthly Review: Why your next dollar shouldn’t go into your 401k

In our monthly review, we round up relevant events that occurred in the news and go over what happened, what those events mean for you, and what you can do about it.

Today, we’ll be reviewing CNN’s article on HSA’s. You can read the full article here.

What happened:

  • CNN Money declared that your next dollar might be better off going to an HSA (health spending account) than to your 401k

What it means for you:

  • The rationale behind this is that HSA’s are completely tax-free—both when you put the money in AND when you take the money out (unlike a 401k, that gets taxed when you take money out). Plus, you can withdraw money from your HSA at anytime without being penalized with extra fees.
  • However, in order to avoid penalties, this money can only be used for medical-related expenses (otherwise you get a 20% penality + have to pay regular income taxes—ouch!)

What you can do about it:

  • See if an HSA is right for you—it only applies if you have a high deductible health plan—which may or not be worth it depending on how much medical care you’ll need (and if/how much your employer contributes to your HAS)
  • If it looks like an HSA is right for you, max out your employer’s 401k match first, and then start contributing to your HSA

 

Questions? Email ashley@greenshield.io or tweet at @getgreenshield here.