The HSA Report Card




Lively is a San Francisco, California based startup focused on creating HSAs that are simple to use and cost-effective for all. In fact, the basic HSA account is free for individuals. For employers with more than 10 employees enrolled it's $3.50 a month per employee. Lively is unique in that it is a software entity and not a banking company like most other HSA administrators. 


Report card

for Lively as an investment vehicle



Investment Threshold

The ideal investment health savings account (HSA) has no investment threshold, allowing the very first dollar you contribute to be invested. If you're using an HSA for investment purposes, seek an administrator that does not hold your dollars hostage in a checking account earning little to no interest. 

Lively has no investment threshold requirement. Lively is one of five administrators in our study that allows first dollar investing.



Investment Account


Lively offers a TD Ameritrade self-directed brokerage account which gives investors access to stocks, bonds, CDs and mutual funds. TD Ameritrade used to have an awesome commission-free ETF program, which included many low-cost index funds from Vanguard and I-Shares. However, TD Ameritrade recently announced a change in the funds offered via their commission-free ETF program. They dropped all of the Vanguard and most of the I-Shares ETFs on Nov. 21st, 2017.

For Vanguard loyalists, note that TD has dropped them from their no-fee list, so investors will have to make do with other fund providers.
— aristotelian74 (REDDIT)

Investors can still buy Vanguard and I-Shares ETFs, but have to pay a $6.95 commission for each trade. Unfortunately this will increase transaction costs for those who trickle money into Vanguard ETFs on a regular basis. A potential solution for this group of Vanguard investors is a systematic investment plan. After the first purchase into the fund, you set up a system of future injections, say $100 or $1,000 every month or quarter. Once you program in how much and when, money just flows from your HSA checking account into the fund of your choice. With a systematic investment plan there is $49.99 (TDA) transaction fee on the first purchase, with ensuing contributions being free of charge. The one drawback of systematic investment plans is that they can only be instituted with mutual funds.

The new TD Ameritrade commission-free ETF lineup is full of high expense ratio funds, but there are a few low-cost SPDR ETFs from State Street Global Advisors that are suitable for passive index investors. These funds include the SPDR Portfolio Total Stock Market ETF (SPTM), SPDR Portfolio World ex-US ETF (SPDW), SPDR Portfolio Emerging Markets ETF (SPEM), and SPDR Portfolio Aggregate Bond ETF (SPAB).

TD Ameritrade Commission-Free ETF Lineup


Interest Bearing Account & CDs


Lively offers participants an FDIC-insured, interest bearing account. This is the default option when opening an HSA with Lively. Interest bearing accounts make sense for participants who are uneasy about investing their HSA dollars in the equity markets.

Highcharts Tutorial  

Another option for participants who want to park their money in safe interest accruing products are brokered CDs. Lively participants are able to access brokered CDs via the TD Ameritrade self-directed brokerage account. Brokered CDs are issued by banks but bought and sold through a brokerage. Interest rates offered by some brokered CDs via TD Ameritrade can be higher than those offered by Lively. Given that there is a $30 annual fee to access the TD Ameritrade brokerage account, brokered CDs only make sense for those with large balances. We strongly encourage you to conduct your own due diligence on brokered CDs and see if they make sense for you. A good starting point is this article by Fidelity Investments, where they explain the basics of brokered CDs.


Fees & Commissions

Condensed Schedule of Fees
Type of Fee Amount Details
Investment $2.50 per month No additional fees by Lively
Commissions $6.95 per equity trade 250+ Commission-free ETFs avaialble

In our study of the top 10 investment HSAs, Lively ranks as the 2nd lowest cost provider. Lively charges its participants a palatable $2.50 per month investment fee. This is the only fee on the Lively fee schedule. Simple. Transparent. Refreshing.  


Projected Fees

In this section, we have a little fun projecting fees for each administrator. Our goal was to find the path to the lowest possible fees for each administrator. Keep in mind, we are assuming the HSA is being used solely for investment purposes, therefore only certain fees will apply. Given that every HSA is different, there is no perfect way to compare the top 10 administrators in our study. Nonetheless, we gave it a shot and believe there is value in presenting our findings.

In order to compare fees, we made a few simple assumptions:

  • Every dollar above the investment threshold was invested.

  • Current and future contributions were invested in a single fund.

    • Total Stock Market Index (VTI / VTSAX / SPTM) or S&P 500 index (IVV / VIIIX / VFIAX). We believe these two index funds are one in the same.

  • No transaction fee (NTF) or commission-free ETF programs were utilized to buy the index funds.

  • If these index funds were not available under the NTF and/or commission-free ETF programs, we turned to the open market and executed a single trade per calendar year in order to keep transaction costs down.

 For Lively we made the following assumptions:

  1. All assets were invested in SPTM ETF (expense ratio 0.03%)

  2. SPTM is a commission-free ETF. No transaction costs incurred.

  3. Annual Investment Fee: $30

The chart below illustrates the projected fees on different investment balances for Lively. 


The following chart illustrates where Lively stands in terms of fees compared to the other top 10 investment HSA administrators.  


As you can see, Lively's fees at every invested balance measured are extremely low compared to the other top 10 investment HSAs. 



In our search for the very best investment HSAs, we looked for administrators that offered a hassle-free investment experience. Lively makes it incredibly easy for HSA investors to manage their account with its intuitive website, automated account transfers, and a receipt storage tool for "shoeboxers".

Feature Available?
Investment Sweep
Automatic Rebalancing
Dividend Reinvestment
Receipt Storage Tool
Intuitive Website

Auto Deposit

With Lively you can set up scheduled recurring deposits from your bank checking account to the HSA checking account.

Automatic Rebalancing

TD Ameritrade does not offer an auto-rebalance feature. Manual rebalancing is required.


Investment Sweep

Automated transfers between the HSA account and TD Ameritrade (TDA) can be set up. Note that you must manually invest your HSA dollars once they reach the TDA brokerage account. The implementation of an automatic/systematic investing plan would be the only way to have HSA dollars automatically flow into investments.

Dividend Reinvestment

TD Ameritrade offers a free dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP). They offer DRIP, free of charge, on most exchange-listed and NASDAQ stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and ADRs. The stock and ETF DRIP allows you to reinvest your cash dividends or mutual fund distributions by purchasing additional shares or fractional shares.


Intuitive Website

Lively's intuitive dashboard makes HSA accounts simple to manage. The dashboard displays your HSA balance and investment balance. In the investment balance window there is a "My Positions" tab and an "Activity" tab, that displays positions and transaction info from TD Ameritrade. The dashboard also has a very simple interface to Transfer or Withdraw funds from the TD Ameritrade self directed brokerage account. 

Receipt Storage

Lively’s dashboard allows you to keep track of receipts as well as categorize each transaction by type. Tagging each transaction will help to filter down your list as it grows. Additionally, you can input a description or note for each transaction, this way you can remember exactly what each purchase was for.



Pros & Cons



1. First dollar investing

2. Low Fees

3. Intuitive technology

4. Online receipt storage tool



1. Short operating history

2. Few low-cost ETFs in the new TD Ameritrade commission-free ETF program

3. No pre-selected investment lineup



A Lively HSA may be right for you if:

  • You are comfortable directing your own investments and desire a broad variety of investment options, such as mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and bonds

  • You are satisfied with the investment options in the TD Ameritrade commission-free ETF list

  • You desire first dollar investing

  • You desire an online receipt storage tool

  • You understand that Lively is a startup

  • You are also planning on spending some of those HSA dollars. Lively is on our short list of the best HSAs for spenders.


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