Saturday, May 7, 2016

Is Stash Invest Safe?

Stash invest app was conceived in early 2015. The company helps Americans start investing for the long term. A lot of people found investing intimidating, expensive, and unrelatable. That's how Stash invest came in.

It's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo! Finance, BuzzFeed News, Fox5 New York and Associated Press AP to name a few.

Is Stash Invest safe?

StashInvest © Collective Returns Inc. - Collective Returns, Inc., dba Stash Invest (""Stash""), is an SEC registered investment advisor.

Stash employs 256-bit bank-grade encryption to secure all your information, from personal info to purchase history and more. Stash uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to help ensure any information in the Stash app and Stash website is (instead of are) are protected. 

User ID, Password, and PIN 
To access your Stash account, you must supply your unique user ID, password, and PIN. Anytime you leave the app, you need to enter your PIN or use Touch ID to get back into your account. Your account is automatically locked after 3 invalid login attempts. 

Stash software, hardware, and IT infrastructure are kept secure with multiple levels of defense. We constantly monitor the latest technologies to keep our systems up to date and up to the industry’s highest standards. 

Session Timeout 
After 15 minutes of inactivity, Stash will automatically end your session and require you to sign back in; this protects your account and lowers the risk of unauthorized access on an unattended phone.

Stash invest is safe because it offers encryption, security features, and is a registered advisor under the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Acorns Fees: How to avoid paying them

acorns logoOne of the hidden costs of robo advisers are the hidden costs. One such is the case of Acorns investment app.

Acorns touts its simple fees.

  • For accounts under $5,000, the fee is $1 a month.
  • For those over $5,000, the annual fee is 0.25%. 
Let's say you invested $50 and got the free $5 from Acorns. Then, you start recurring deposits of $20. 

$50 + $5 + ($20*12)

$50 + $5 + $240
$295 Net Invested

$295 - $12
$283 After Acorns fees

The $12 represented a 4.24% of the total net invested. That is an outstanding amount. 

There are also separate fees collected by the exchange traded funds where your money is invested. 

Education is key
You can't avoid the ETF fees, but you can avoid the Acorns fee. If you're a student and not yet 24, using your .edu email will eliminate the Acorns fee.

Another way is owning the ETF funds outright eliminating the middle man, Acorns. 

Here comes Motif Investing. It is an online stock broker and it charges $9.95 per trade on Motifs and $4.95 on individual stocks.

Motifs are like ETFs, but it can consist of ETFs and individual stocks up to 30.

Someone has copied the portfolio allocation of Acorns on Motif. The good thing about using Motif Investing is that you own the ETF funds and for a small one time fee of $9.95. Yup, you heard that right. One time fee. There is no annual fee. 

Let's say you put in $500 to the Motif tracking the Aggressive Acorns portfolio. The $9.95 Motif charges on the trade only represents 1.99% of the total invested. It is not recurring either. If you invested $500 on Acorns investment app, the $12 fee represents 2.40%.

Motif Investing comes up top.

No recurring fee, cutting the middle man.

The chart or Motif below tracks the Aggressive portfolio. The sign up process is the same on Acorns. It takes 3 business days for your deposits to clear. 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

How Acorns App Investment Works

Acorns is app-based investment vehicle.

With as low as $5, you can start investing. The best thing about Acorns is that it charges no commissions which usually costs $4.95-$8.95. The dividends are reinvested automatically, growing your investment using compound interests. 

Acorns works by diversifying your portfolio using your investing style:
  1. Conservative
    • offers income and capital preservation
  2. Moderately Conservative
    • offers income and capital growth
  3. Moderate
    • offers capital growth with safe cushion
  4. Moderately Aggressive
    • offers capital growth with risk
  5. Aggressive 
    • offers maximum capital growth with a lot of risk
Acorns uses six exchanged traded funds which are like mutual funds, but are more easily tradeable like stocks in general. 

We have LQD, SHY, VB, VNQ, VOO, and VWO. You can click the SYMBOLs for more detailed explanation. 

I like the MODERATE PORTFOLIO because it provides great diversification. 
Large Company Stocks 16% - Top dog US stocks that will stand market shocks
Small Company Stocks 19% - Small companies showing tremendous growth
Emerging Company Stocks 10% - I would love to see this at 5%. Too much risk with China. 
Real Estate Stocks 16% - This is where you will get the most dividends. Love REITs.
Government Bonds 19% -  With the backing of Uncle Sam, very safe, status quo, pennies
Corporate Bonds 20% - Top dog in bonds, very safe, dimes

If you are in your teens or twenties, I highly recommend Aggressive, Moderately Aggressive, and Moderate. However, it all depends on when you will need the money invested. If you don't need the money in 5 years, the Aggressive and Moderately Aggressive portfolio will work.

If you need the invested funds in a year, I highly suggest the Moderate, Moderately Conservative, and Conservative. Your money is protected and you will not see much fluctuations during market crash. 

For those nearing retirement, Moderately Conservative and Conservative provides some growth (pennies and dimes), but your invested funds are preserved from any market crash. 

Don't forget the fees. 

It's free for students under 24 years old who used their .edu email to register.

It's $1 a month for account holders with below $5,000 total invested.

If your investment goes above $5,000, there will be a flat fee of 0.25% from your total fund per year. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

TerraForm Global is taking steps to create some distance from its parent SunEdison

TerraForm Global shines as it sues its sponsor SunEdison for misappropriating funds intended to acquire renewable projects in India.

Litigation against SunEdison, Inc. On April 3, 2016, TerraForm Global, Inc. (“TerraForm Global”) filed a complaint asserting claims against SunEdison, Inc., SunEdison Holdings Corporation (collectively with SunEdison, Inc., “SunEdison”), Ahmad Chatila, Martin Truong and Brian Wuebbels in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (TerraForm Global, Inc., v. SunEdison, Inc., et al. C.A. No. 12159-VCL). The complaint asserts claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and unjust enrichment relating to the failure by SunEdison to transfer equity interests of certain renewable energy projects in India (the “India Projects”). As previously disclosed, in the fourth quarter of 2015, TerraForm Global prepaid $231 million for the India Projects. The complaint seeks various forms of relief, including a constructive trust upon the equity interests of SunEdison in the India Projects, money damages from the defendants, restoration of the $231 million to TerraForm Global and such other relief as the court may deem just and proper.
TerraForm Global warned in a March 29 filing that “there is a substantial risk that SunEdison will soon seek bankruptcy protection.”

“At the yieldcos, at some point they need to get into self-preservation,” Swami Venkataraman, an analyst with Moody’s Investors Service, said in an interview April 4 after TerraForm filed its lawsuit against SunEdison.

Business as usual

TerraForm Global (NASDAQ:GLBL) recently reported that it closed the acquisition of a solar project in Uruguay. The Alto Cielo consists of 26.4MW capacity. It has a 28-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the National Administration of Power Plants and Electrical Transmissions (UTE), Uruguay's state-owned utility. Under the terms of the PPA, UTE will purchase all energy produced by the Alto Cielo project for the duration of the contract. This is a very long contract because power purchase agreements with utilities are usually 20 years. The power plant reached commercial operation in March 2016.

Uruguay is one of a select group of investment-grade markets in the region.

In other news, TerraForm Global is awaiting regulatory approval to acquire 100% controlling interest in 32.6MW capacity in wind and solar projects in South Africa. The company paid approximately $73.6 million consisting of $67.7 million in cash and 544, 055 Class A common stock. The company has been selling the power generated from these plants to state-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. under a 20-year fixed-price power purchase agreement (PPA) since 2014. If the closing has not occurred by November 30, 2016, the parties are required to negotiate for 60 days to agree upon an alternative structure that would permit release of the escrowed funds. Failure to reach such agreement by January 30, 2017 would entitle BioTherm to sell the power plants to a third party.

TerraForm Global along with TerraForm Power will weather the insolvency of its sponsor SunEdison because their portfolios consists of assets that generate revenue.

Disclosure. We own shares of TerraForm Global. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

TerraForm Global Acquires 26.4MW Solar Power Plant

TerraForm Global reports new acquisition:
1. Alto Cielo Transaction
On April 8, 2016, TerraForm Global, Inc. (the “Company”) closed the acquisition of the 26.4 MW capacity Alto Cielo operating solar power plant located in Uruguay from Solarpack Corporaci√≥n Tecnol√≥gica, S.L. Following the closing, the Company has a 100% ownership interest in the Alto Cielo power plant. The power plant reached commercial operation in March 2016. The aggregate consideration paid by the Company for the Alto Cielo power plant was approximately $35.4 million. 
2. BioTherm Transaction
As previously disclosed, in April 2015, the Company entered into a purchase and sale agreement to acquire a controlling interest in three operating power plants located in South Africa with a combined generation capacity of 32.6 MW from BTSA Netherlands Cooperatie U.A. (“BioTherm”).

The aggregate consideration payable for these three power plants is approximately $73.6 million, comprised of approximately $67.7 million in cash and 544,055 shares of the Company’s Class A common stock, which is fixed in accordance with the purchase and sale agreement. The aggregate consideration includes amounts for certain additional rights and services. The completion of the BioTherm transaction remains subject to obtaining consents from the South African Department of Energy and project lenders and is expected to occur in the third quarter of 2016.

In August 2015, the Company paid $65.7 million in cash for the solar power plants Aries and Konkoonsies and the wind power plant Klipheuwel. In addition to the cash consideration, the Company provided 544,055 shares of its Class A common stock as consideration for the three power plants. Approximately $20.3 million of the August cash payment and all of the 544,055 shares of the Company’s Class A common stock were deposited into an escrow account. The remaining balance of $2.0 million cash is payable to BioTherm after the receipt of consent to the transfer of the power plants from the South African Department of Energy.

Prior to the completion of the BioTherm transaction, BioTherm is required to direct payment of all distributions from the Klipheuwel power plant to the Company, and the Company and BioTherm are required to jointly direct the release of amounts equal to the cash distributions from the Aries and Konkoonsies solar power plants from the escrow account to the Company.

Pending receipt of the consents from the South African Department of Energy and project lenders, the Company may at its discretion direct a sale of the power plants to a third party. In respect of the Aries and Konkoonsies projects, if the closing has not occurred by November 30, 2016, the parties are required to negotiate for 60 days to agree upon an alternative structure that would permit release of the escrowed funds. Failure to reach such agreement by January 30, 2017 would entitle BioTherm to sell the power plants to a third party. Upon closing of a sale to a third party, all sale proceeds are required to be paid to the Company, any amounts remaining in the escrow account are required to be released to BioTherm and the Company is required to pay to BioTherm the remaining $2.0 million cash balance of the purchase price.
Source: TerraForm Global

Disclosure. We own shares of TerraForm Global (Nasdaq: GLBL)

TerraForm Power sued by DE Shaw and Madison Dearborn Capital Partners for First Wind

The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that TerraForm Power, LLC (and TerraForm Power, Inc. as guarantor) would be liable for, and required to pay immediately, the accelerated earnout payment under the Agreement following any SunEdison bankruptcy.

"On April 3, 2016, a complaint was filed by D.E. Shaw Composite Holdings, L.L.C. and Madison Dearborn Capital Partners IV, L.P. in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, against TerraForm Power, LLC and TerraForm Power, Inc. (D.E. Shaw Composite Holdings, L.L.C., et al. v. TerraForm Power, LLC, et al., Index No. 651752/2016). The complaint was filed in connection with the Purchase and Sale Agreement, dated as of November 17, 2014, for the First Wind acquisition (the “Agreement”). The complaint alleges that SunEdison, Inc. (“SunEdison”) owes plaintiffs approximately $231 million in earnout payments under the Agreement, and that those earnout payments would become due and payable immediately upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition by SunEdison. The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that TerraForm Power, LLC (and TerraForm Power, Inc. as guarantor) would be liable for, and required to pay immediately, the accelerated earnout payment under the Agreement following any SunEdison bankruptcy.

TerraForm Power, LLC and TerraForm Power, Inc. believe that the lawsuit is without merit and plan to vigorously defend it."

Monday, April 4, 2016

TerraForm Global Terminates Acquisition Of 41.8 MW Hydroelectric Power Plants In Brazil


Company entered into a Termination Agreement with Renova.
The company paid $10 million to Renova in April 1, 2016.
Trouble keeps on adding up.
TerraForm Global (NASDAQ:GLBL) announced today that it has terminated acquisition of hydroelectric projects from Renova.
On March 29, 2016, the Company entered into a Termination Agreement (the "Termination Agreement") with Renova with respect to the Securities Purchase Agreement dated July 15, 2015 among the Company, SunEdison and Renova relating to the Espra hydro-electric power plant (the "Espra SPA").
The acquisition originally consisted of three small hydroelectric plants with installed capacity of 41.8MW in Espra, nine wind farms with installed capacity of 195.2MW in Salvador, and five wind farms with 99.2MW of installed capacity in Bahia. The hydroelectric projects have an original power purchase agreement PPA of 20 years through 2028 while the wind farms have a term of 20 years through 2032. The two wind power plants in Bahia and Salvador were acquired in September 18, 2015. Terraform Global paid for the Salvador and Bahia wind power plants $116.7 million in cash and 20,327,499 shares of Class A common stocks.
Termination Agreement
Under the termination agreement, TerraForm Global will pay Renova $10 million in connection with the termination of the hydroelectric power plants. Both parties have "granted each other full releases of any further obligations under the Espra SPA." TerraForm Global made the payment on April 1, 2016 to Renova. The hydroelectric projects would have contributed between $4-5 million cash available for distribution on an annualized basis.
Trouble Adds Up
Included with the termination announcement is the disclosure of first amendment to its credit and guaranty agreement:
First Amendment to Credit and Guaranty Agreement On March 30, 2016, TerraForm Global Operating, LLC, a subsidiary of the Company, entered into a first amendment (the "Amendment") to its credit and guaranty agreement with Goldman Sachs Bank USA, as Administrative Agent and Lender, the other credit parties, and certain other lenders party thereto (the "Revolver").
The Amendment provides that the date on which TerraForm Global, LLC ("Global LLC") must deliver to the Administrative Agent and the other lenders party to the Revolver its financial statements and accompanying report with respect to fiscal year 2015 shall be extended to April 30, 2016.
In March 30, 2016, TerraForm Global announced that it will be filing its annual report late. Brian Wuebbels resigned from his position as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company. On the same day, Mr. Wuebbels also resigned from his position as a director on the board of directors the company.
The next day TerraForm Global received a notification letter from an Associate Director of NASDAQ Listing Qualifications. The notification letter stated that because the Company has not yet filed its Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2015. The Company has until May 31, 2016, to submit a plan to NASDAQ as to how it plans to regain compliance with NASDAQ's continued listing requirements.
All TerraForm Global's problems can be attributed to its sponsor SunEdison (NYSE:SUNE). TerraForm Global overpaid SunEdison for projects. To top that off, it also prepaid for renewable projects in India worth $231 million that are still in construction. Reports are also circulating of SunEdison's bankruptcy and it is seeking partners or to unload projects all over the world.
This is looking bad for TerraForm Global. The company has an attractive portfolio and good dividend yield. However, investors should be wary and wait for the annual report to be filed before taking any positions.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

UPDATE: Flyt Express Shipping on eBay

I just checked my eBay account and got an update from Flyt Express tracking.

It is still in China, but at least the Flyt Express tracking number is working.

I will wait this out and not file a PayPal dispute. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Did you know Sam's Club offers passport photos for a reasonable price

If you are looking for cheap and quality passport photo, then your Sam's Club card membership will come in handy.

Sam's Club photo center do passport photos.

Now 1-hour passport photos are available at all Sam’s Club Photo locations and cost just $4.96 for two photos.

This is great for people that needs last minute passport photos for a trip or important application.

I myself used Sam's Club photo center to get passport photos.

Give them a try.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Record High Renewable Energy Use In Hawaii, Boom For Solar

  • Hawaii continues to lead the nation in rooftop PV.
  • In 2015, 26,000 PV systems were installed or approved.
  • Electricity generated using renewable energy sources increased by 39,153 megawatt-hours in 2015.
  • Solar projects to see continued growth.
  • Hawaii's commitment to 100% renewable energy initiative.
Electric Companies, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HE) reported in March record high renewable energy use.
Renewable Energy Usage
Hawaii Island 48.7 %
Maui County 35.4 %
Oahu Island 17.2 %

Solar Power Keeps Rising

More than 77,000 customers of the Hawaiian Electric Companies --approximately 17 percent of all customers -- have installed or have been approved to install PV.
Hawaiian Electric Companies have taken additional steps to work with customers and the solar industry, including:
  • Sponsoring forums for solar contractors to discuss the new programs, requirements, and application procedures
  • Issuing step-by-step instructions for the new Grid Supply contract in January 2016
  • Offering workshops (nine so far in 2016, with over 100attendees) with the solar industry to explain the new Grid Supply contract and forms
  • Multiple one-on-one discussions with contractors to address specific questions or concerns

In March, Hawaiian Electric Companies customers saw a reduced electric bills, not seen in 6 years.
Island Typical residential bill* Effective rate per kilowatt-hour Date when typical residential bill was last lower than this month
Oahu $123.06 22.6 cents January 2010: $122.34
Hawaii $154.26 28.5 cents April 2007: $152.01
Maui $139.17 25.9 cents n/a
Lanai $124.12 28.6 cents June 2009: $123.99
Molokai $122.61 28.2 cents July 2009: $120.14

The reduced electric bills can be attributed to the falling price of oil.

"Our customers are continuing to receive the savings from low oil prices," said Darren Pai, Hawaiian Electric spokesman.

Falling price of oil has had an unusual result. Electric bills on Maui are slightly higher in March as the contracted price for wind energy is currently higher than the cost of using oil to generate electricity and Maui Electric is forecasted to use more wind energy in March.

The cost of renewable energy is still a main concern. With the price of oil at its current level, Hawaii might find itself going back to oil.
There are also concerns about completion of some renewable projects.

Canceled Contracts
In February, Hawaiian Electric terminated a power purchase agreement with SunEdison (SUNE) for three solar farms. SunEdison is facing financial problems. Debt Wire reported that SunEdison is engage in DIP talks with lien holders. Multiple delays and liquidity problems with SunEdison was ultimately the deciding factor. The utility cited "SunEdison's apparently precarious financial condition" and said the projects "had been in default under the PPAs and had not cured important missed milestones."
It represented 112 MW of utility scale solar.
SunEdison, through its subsidiary TerraForm Power (TERP), still has 81MW wind and 1.2 MW solar portfolio in Hawaii.

100% Renewable Initiative

State of Hawaii Gov. Ige signed a bill setting 100 percent renewable energy goal in power sector.
"As the most oil dependent state in the nation, Hawai'i spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs. Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment and energy security," Ige said. "I'd like to thank the senate and house energy committee chairs for championing HB623 and ensuring that Hawaii remains a national leader in clean energy."

Opportunity for Growth

Renewable energy developers are provided with great opportunity to see growth in Hawaii.
Sunrun (RUN) has saved Hawaiians over $21,329,238 on their electric bills to date. To continue its growth, SunRun partnered with The Home Depot (HD) by building kiosks inside three stores in Hawaii. SunRun is also partnering with Tesla Motors (TSLA) to offer energy home storage. During the day, the sun shines on your solar panels, charging your solar battery. At night, your home draws energy from your battery, saving you money on energy costs.
(click to enlarge)
Solar City (SCTY) continues to increase its commercial business. It recently partnered with army bases to provide solar electricity to 7,500 homes which would add 12.8 megawatts of new solar generation capacity. Following the lead of SunRun, SolarCity announced that it will be offering solar battery storage through a partnership with Tesla Motors in Hawaii.

SunPower (SPWR) continues to develop and improve solar technology. SunPower's Equinox features solar cells designed with copper backing and unique light-trapping surfaces to capture more sunlight over longer periods of time than conventional cells can. Generating energy at a world-record 22% efficiency rate, producing 70% more energy in the same space over the life of the system. SunPower Equinox system is designed and engineered completely by SunPower, a company with 30 years of proven success, one single warranty covers everything. The panel, microinverter, mounting hardware are covered for 25 years and 10 years for the monitoring hardware. SunPower has 20 certified dealers in Hawaii offering and installing its products.

This is a great opportunity for renewable energy developers currently and those thinking of getting into the Hawaii market. This is especially beneficial for developers who exited the Nevada market after regulators imposed new fees.

Green energy will continue to see growth in Hawaii as regulators, the Hawaiian Electric Companies, and renewable energy companies simplify process and development of solar and wind projects.


Disclosure: As of this writing, we own stocks of SunRun and SunPower. We recommend Home Depot.