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Russell Simmons: Has a Word or Two for the NY Times

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Russell Simmons tells critics to "kiss his ass," invites them to compete with RushCard,  and implores Walmart and others to find more innovative solutions for underserved communities.

Since April is financial literacy month, I feel this is a perfect time to set the record straight concerning comments I have been reading online about the RushCard.

Although a recent New York Times article was not judgmental about the RushCard, I'm disappointed that they did not do any research when quoting critics who say the RushCard pushes people into debt. The RushCard is a prepaid card, NOT a credit card. It gives people the convenience of a credit card without the debt. Financial literacy month is when people should know the truth about options to manage their money, not when misinformation should be spread to keep the underserved communities suppressed.

I have watched with pride the way RushCard has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people giving them respect and dignity. It gives underserved communities the tools to get their money right.

The RushCard helps struggling Americans who find themselves without access to bank accounts or credit. They have to tackle difficult and expensive obstacles every day when they need to pay their bills. When they go to a check-cashing place they are forced to pay a huge fee just to get their money. Typically, 10 percent of their paycheck goes to these fees and they spend 8 to 10 hours a week to go pay bills in person. They cannot pay bills without standing in line, and it's difficult for them to rent a car or shop online. This separates them from part of the American Dream that other Americans are free to enjoy.

Some people pay a lot to have a bank account. The average U.S. household pays over $340 a year in bank insufficient fund fees. In fact, most of these are paid by members of underserved communities totaling over $1,300 per year per household. I have read that we are somehow trying to take advantage of people by charging high fees. It's a very competitive space and even Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, has followed us with their own prepaid card.

We've built many innovative tools to help people save money. Over half of the RushCard members who use these tools say they save more than $300 a year and 30 percent say they¹re saving $600 per year. We're constantly adding new features to help people.

I needed to do something to help the underserved. It had to be an entrepreneurial venture to make it grow fast enough. In five years we have over 1.5 million members and the biggest source of new members is from current members talking about the card. The people who need the card and use it really understand its value. Our biggest advertisers are our members themselves, spreading its value by word of mouth to their friends and family.

In short, I have no interest in building companies that don't have empowerment components for communities in need. The focus of all my businesses will always be to serve. Scripture says, "do not forget the poor" so I will always make it my job to help relieve the suffering of others whenever possible. I am thrilled to see the RushCard is doing just that.

I invite critics to compete with RushCard in this space. This will help us all find better solutions for underserved communities.—Russell Simmons

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