THE BLOG
02/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Letter to Russell Simmons: Stop Selling Your Rushcard!

Dear Mr. Simmons:

My name is Ryan Mack and I have followed your career for most of my life. I have been a long-time admirer of your work, a tremendous fan, and believe that millions are inspired by the paths that you have created in the field of Hip-Hop. More importantly, as an advocate for financial literacy myself, I believe that the work that you have been doing through the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network as it relates to financial literacy has been second to none. However, I must admit to being somewhat disappointed with your recent pre-paid debit card venture - the "Rushcard."

The pre-paid debit card industry has always been an industry that is built upon a lack of knowledge within the community. It is an industry based upon the legal phrase which demonstrates that "false imprisonment is an intentional tort." In other words, if I put someone in a room and do not lock the door but tell them that the door is locked, they will remain in the room because they believe the door is locked. As a result of my action, I have committed a punishable crime. I view pre-paid debit cards in the same light. Those who know the strategies to empower the community have a moral obligation to those, who may not be as knowledgeable, to fully inform them. There are other more efficient means to empower those in our communities than pre-paid debit cards and other financially destructive establishments such as check cashing facilities. The typical bank offers free debit cards that if used properly do not have any fees affiliated with them and can be used for the same purpose as the pre-paid debit cards.

If we compare the fees affiliated with the Rushcard compared to the typical bank offered debit card, we can clearly see the advantage of the cards offered by the banking institutions.

Rushcard vs. Typical Bank Card

Activation Fee: Rushcard = $19.95 Typical Bank Card = Free
Convenience Fee: Rushcard = $1.00 Typical Bank Card = Free
ATM Cash Withdrawal: Rushcard = $1.95 Typical Bank Card = Free (At Branch)
ATM Balance Inquiry: Rushcard = $.50 Typical Bank Card = Free
Bill Payment: Rushcard = $1.00 Typical Bank Card = Free
Inactivity: Rushcard = $2.95 Typical Bank Card = Free
Refund of Rushcard/Bank Card via Check: Rushcard = $5.00 Typical Bank Card = Free

As you see, there is no financial reason for one to choose the Rushcard over a typical banking institution which offers debit cards as a part of their services. With the continuous onslaught of technology, it is becoming increasingly easier to open bank accounts.

In addition to that, the Black community needs to pay more scrutiny to our spending patterns as excessive consumption continues to present a serious problem within our communities. Over 93% of our dollars are spent on consumption (compared to 85% of all dollars in America spent on consumption); we invest less than 20% less per month than whites; and our net worth as a community continues to remain 20% of the net worth of our white counterparts. The unnecessary excessive fees related to the pre-paid debit cards do nothing but compound the problem by eroding crucial capital that could be used for other important activities such as retirement, entrepreneurship endeavors, higher education costs, home ownership, and/or building a sound financial legacy for our families.

Please do not mistake my intentions. I must admit that it may be possible that there are individual situations where a Rushcard might be appropriate. However, I cannot think of any situations that would be beneficial at this moment. Furthermore, I believe that individuals who do have substantial knowledge about various financial options have a moral obligation to educate consumers about ALL options that are available to them. Mr. Simmons, you and I must continue to take a proactive role in enabling all citizens within our reach to be better suited to make fully informed financial decisions. With these volatile economic times that we face today within this country, America and more specifically our communities deserve that much from us.

I do apologize if any offense was taken from my comments as there was none intended. I am only concerned about the welfare of the people in my community as you are as well. As President of Optimum Capital Management, I have spent the last decade educating people around the world about the importance of being fiscally responsible. As a young, up-and-coming entrepreneur, I started this company to empower my community and fulfill a void that has existed far too long. Since the onset of Optimum I have been featured in Tavis Smiley's book "The Covenant in Action", profiled in Black Enterprise Magazine, named Tom Joyner's "Hardest Working Financial Advisor" of the year, and have appeared frequently on major TV networks (GMTV, CNBC, CNN, BET and FOX) discussing the economy and spreading this important message of fiscal responsibility. More important than any exposure that I have received is what continues to drive me and what continues to feed my passion to work on behalf of my communities. I advocate on behalf of those "hard to employ" individuals in my community, those whom we have helped to receive job training and start their own legitimate businesses, the hundreds of teens we have instructed (many of whom are in transitional housing or homeless), those teens who have learned about fiscal responsibility from our programming and now earn money by teaching adults about financial literacy, the many teens under our guide who have gone on to win scholarships (including the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship) and started their own businesses, and the thousands of adults who have expressed their gratitude for the economic empowerment that Optimum Capital Management has instilled within their lives. We should all place a very high premium on intellectual capital and I feel that the American people deserve to be exposed to tangible solutions of empowerment.

This is my field of expertise and I only wanted to share my view to someone such as yourself who has great prominence and influence in the community. I urge you to use this influence, as you have done previously though the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and speak out against these destructive services that are being offered in our communities: pre-paid debit cards, check cashing facilities, money grams, and all the services which profit by capitalizing on the lack of knowledge in our communities. Making money from ignorance is not the answer...education is the answer and we must provide it. All of our actions must be done for the good of the people and not the good of the pocket. Based on all that you have done for those in our communities, I am certain that you agree.

Regards,

Ryan Mack, President
www.optimum-capital.com