Why We Started Lively
- Alex Cyriac
- 5 min read
At Lively, our mission is pretty simple—to inspire people to confidently embrace a healthy future. It’s woven into everything we do. It’s why we’re dedicated to helping people who are constantly bombarded with out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, despite paying regular premiums for health insurance. If you aren’t prepared for it, these unexpected costs can derail your budget and impact your financial wellness. It’s something that my good friend Shobin Uralil and I, as Lively’s founders, know from personal experience.
The challenges that inspired Lively
Back in 2015, my mother casually mentioned that she’d stopped taking essential medication after her insurance company significantly increased her copay. It simply cost too much money, and she was worried about being able to afford it—so she put her own health on the back burner. I was concerned and confused, especially because my parents had Medicare. Shouldn’t that have covered these kinds of things? I learned quickly that Medicare still leaves folks in retirement open to astronomical healthcare costs. In fact, the average 65-year-old couple in 2022 could need roughly $315,000 saved to cover healthcare expenses in retirement.
When I talked about my mother’s situation with Shobin, who was a new father, I learned that young families were also encountering steep out-of-pocket medical bills. Between routine infant care and a surprise diagnosis that required special treatment, Shobin and his wife had been to the doctor more times than they could count in the four months since their son had been born. And even though their health insurance provided coverage, they were still left with copays on a rolling basis. And that was on top of having to meet high deductibles.
When we got to talking, it became clear that rising healthcare costs impact everybody, from young families to retirees (and everyone in between). We felt that there had to be some way for people to prepare for this. Everyday people shouldn’t be going broke paying for healthcare—or making the impossible decision to forgo vital medication. That’s when Shobin and I began thinking about health savings accounts (HSAs).
These powerful, tax-advantaged savings vehicles allow you to set aside money on a pre-tax basis. The funds then grow tax-deferred, and withdrawals are tax-free if they’re used for qualified medical expenses. Most importantly, it creates a pool of money you can draw on to cover unexpected medical bills. The obvious question then became: Why isn’t everyone with a high-deductible health plan using an HSA?
How Lively came to be
As we began to learn about HSAs we found that the HSA industry was mired in antiquated technology and out-of-touch incumbent HSA providers. We saw clearly the need for a modern HSA platform for individuals, as well as employers who offer HSAs as an employee benefit. So we set out to build one from the ground up that puts the user first. Our hypothesis was that we could do it better by focusing on the end consumer experience and working our way backwards from there. We tapped into hundreds of existing HSA users and found that their experiences were generally pretty poor across the board. The chief complaints were outdated tech and having to work with banks that were constantly nickel and diming them. When taken together, this made it difficult to access their money when they needed it most.
Lively was born in 2016, and named for how we want people to feel after they interact with us: upbeat and lively. We believe that managing your HSA should be easy, stress-free, user-friendly and consumer-centered. It’s about more than just finances. At the end of the day, we want people to feel confident about their ability to navigate out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
We got through Lively’s early days with determination and, to learn as much as we could, undertook initiatives we knew wouldn’t scale in order to learn as much as we could. In fact, we served as the company’s first two support representatives. We talked to our first 1,000+ account holders, in addition to any potential customers, who called into our information phone line. It was important to us that we understood their needs, issues, and challenges. This gave us a tremendous amount of empathy for our account holders and became one of our businesses core values. Another fun fact: Lively’s logo represents the universal sign for health (two hearts coming together).
How does a Lively HSA work?
According to Lively’s 2022 Wellness and Wealth Report we found that only 63% of Americans understand HSAs, so we thought we’d go over the basics to help explain why they are so important to making healthcare more affordable for many Americans. To qualify for an HSA, you must have a qualifying high-deductible health plan. In 2020, 52.9% of American workers with employer-sponsored private health insurance were enrolled in this type of plan, according to ValuePenguin data. We designed Lively to be intuitive and easy to navigate, so individuals with this type of plan can sign up directly. We also designed Lively to be convenient: individuals and employees can put money in and make withdrawals for qualified medical expenses using a dedicated debit card. They can also access their transaction history, and upload and categorize receipts with just a few clicks. All the while, their cash funds are secure in an FDIC-insured, interest-bearing account.
Account holders may also choose to invest their money in securities like stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), if that supports their overall financial health and goals. The decision to invest is up to the individual, but the option is there if they’re hoping to put more muscle behind their savings. We also wanted to ensure that our fee structure was as transparent as it gets—for employers, Lively is $2.95 per month per employee with no hidden fees, and Lively accounts are free for individuals to simply save.
We also worked on making an easy-to-navigate dashboard for employers so they can utilize Lively to simplify their HSA administration and understand their tax savings in real time. We’re always researching new features to make Lively even easier to use.
When all is said and done, our vision is to create a space that empowers people to manage their healthcare dollars with confidence and ease. Five years after we started Lively, we’re excited that we continue to make good on that promise.
If you’re passionate about simplifying and improving people’s healthcare experience and want to join a people-first company and team, we’re hiring! Visit our careers page to learn more about our team and search our open roles.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.