Ask Lee Now: Answering Readers’ Questions

We love to hear from readers! Please email your question or comment to Independent Living editor Lee
Bellinger ([email protected]). Please include your name and home state.
You may also reach us via postal mail (P.O. Box 1240; Clover, SC 29710-4240).

My New Debit Card Tracks My Every Move! Try This.

R. C. Muller writes: I recently received a new debit card and sure enough it does indeed contain an RFID chip, a government spy to carry around with me! I didn’t like the idea, and still don’t so I called the Credit Union to be sure of things and she said that the debit card does indeed have the chip, but that the information is scrambled when it is broadcast, so there is no problem with any undesirable person listening in and getting the personal data, but only the (innocent!) government.

How long will it be before the criminals get the government’s de-scrambler? About 10 minutes, I would imagine!

Lee responds: The new debit and credit cards that come with embedded microchips are supposed to make transactions more secure. But as you suggest, they also create new vulnerabilities. The scary thing is that we don’t even know what those vulnerabilities are.

Cars with integrated computer systems were supposed to be secure. Now we’re finding out they can be hacked. It’s literally possible for someone to take over a “smart” car via remote control. Will data thieves be able to remotely take over your Visa and Mastercard?

Unfortunately, a new wave of digital pick-pocketing has emerged. One way to shield your chipped cards from RFID scanners and other threats is by carrying your cards within a RFIDblocking sleeve. Some companies sell them for privacy protection. But all you really need to do is wrap your chip-enabled cards in aluminum foil. That should block wireless signals from being transmitted – a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem!

Another Way to Cope With Crummy, Government-Approved Dishwashers

Abanitt writes: Do you think using some vinegar in addition to the soap in the dishwasher cycle may help it to clean better?

It won’t hurt. But to get your dishwasher itself clean (including inside the sprayers where you can’t see), you first need to scrub it out. Then run it empty in sanitize mode with white vinegar. You’ll need a lot of white vinegar – about 2 cups poured into the basin – in order to dissolve the buildup that has accumulated over time.

Do this every few weeks, and your dishwasher should deliver top performance.

Rules for Radicals and Then Some

James E. writes: Lee, as a long time subscriber to your Independent Living Newsletter, I completely agree with your assertions and then some. You are, like me, probably senior enough to know who Saul Alinsky was, a “community organizer” like the current occupant in the people’s house. Attached are Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”. Check them out and see if you agree that this is what is being foisted onto our country.

Lee responds: Saul Alinsky’s prescriptions are at the heart of how leftists today behave. Their aims and their tactics are derived largely from “Rules for Radicals.”

The key to defeating the left is to use their own divide and conquer strategy against them. The left doesn’t have a coherent set of principles. It’s essentially a coalition of disparate identity groups – feminists, racial grievance mongers, hippies, immigrants, environmentalists, labor unions. If you can pit them against each other (i.e., feminists vs. Muslims, greens vs. labor, Black Lives Matter militants vs. white hipsters), then you can render their movement ineffectual.

Do-It-Yourself Faraday Cages Can and Do Work

Anonymous writes: Here’s an idea for a substitute faraday cage on the cheap for small electronics. Save and clean out/let dry your empty metal paint cans. Wrap your devices thickly in old newspapers or other non-conductive material. Hammer the lid down tightly and keep an opener tool handy. Do you think that might work?

Lee responds: A variety of metal containers can serve as faraday boxes for shielding against electromagnetic pulses. Empty paint cans are handy for this purpose since they have lids that can be sealed and re-opened. The important thing is that whatever you put inside be well insulated. Placing small electronic devices individually inside their own plastic bags, then using newspaper to line the paint cans should work.

Just Want to Keep What We Have!

George B. writes: Our life savings consist of 3 accounts invested with JP Morgan Chase. At this time we are very concerned about protecting our accounts. I am not looking to make money, just want to keep what we have. My wife and I are 85 years of age, having raised and educated our 7 children, now 20 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren and we would like to leave our investments worth about $400,000 to our family. We would appreciate any info you can offer us regarding this matter.

Lee responds: Your estate will ultimately go to the benefit of a lot of people! That makes it that much more important to preserve its value.

Are you satisfied with the way JP Morgan is handling your investments? Don’t let them take your business for granted. Pay close attention to the fees you’re being charged. In an environment of ultra-low interest rates, account fees and broker commissions can dramatically eat into the effective returns you’re getting on money market funds, bonds, or other “safe” assets.

Of course, what is conventionally regarded as safe (dollar-denominated debt instruments) can turn out to be risky if/when the dollar declines and inflation picks up. So you should also think about diversifying into inflation-indexed bonds and precious metals outside of what you have invested with JP Morgan Chase.

Are Gold IRA Service Fees Too Steep to Make the Switch?

Herbert S. writes: My wife and I are in our 70’s taking Mandatory Draw Downs from our IRA accounts (~$1,000,000). It has been suggested we roll our IRA’s into a gold/silver IRA accounts. However, the total costs appear excessive to me. What do you think?

Lee responds: Congratulations on accumulating a $1 million retirement fund! Now you need to make sure it doesn’t shrink. Precious metals can certainly play a role in retirement accounts. It’s not an either/or situation but a both/and. You should hold both conventional income-producing retirement assets and physical precious metals. You can accomplish this by diverting a portion of your IRA into a Self-Directed precious metals IRA.

There are account custodians for gold and silver bullion IRAs who offer competitive fees. New Direction IRA (303-546-7930; is one reputable firm that specializes in Self-Directed IRAs, including precious metals IRAs. There are others.

A nice feature of holding gold and silver coins in an IRA is being able to take your coins as distributions. That means you can satisfy your required minimum distributions without having to sell your bullion into the market for cash.

Politically Correct Laundry Soap Just Doesn’t Work Right

Steven J. writes: Note that TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) is nearly impossible to get anymore – they have replaced it with sodium silicate in the TSP boxes! Still labeled as TSP.

Seth Van Brocklin responds: You can add TSP to your laundry to make your clothes come out crisper and cleaner. TSP replaces the phosphates that have been removed from laundry detergents.But only if the TSP product is actual tri-sodium phosphate – and not a substitute.

I went to my local Home Depot to see for myself if they sell genuine TSP. I found some boxes labeled “TSP” in the paint aisle. But they were all “phosphate-free” varieties of TSP. How can there be such a thing as phosphate-free tri-sodium phosphate? There can’t, of course – at least not as long as the law of identity is in force! But this contradiction sits on store shelves waiting to trick unwitting shoppers into buying it.

Home Depot’s web site sells Savogran brand TSP substitute, which means it isn’t tri-sodium phosphate. However, there are plenty of other web sites where you can purchase the real thing. You can buy Savogran TSP tri-sodium phosphate online from Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Amazon, to name a few.

Do Christian Healthcare Options Work?

Nancy L. writes: I have serious medical costs and now that my husband has become disabled, we will no longer be able to afford $800+ per month. Do you know anything about “Christian Share ministries” health care programs? Are they for everyone?

Lee responds: Healthcare sharing arrangements set up by religious groups are one of the only legal ways to opt out of Obamacare. They are not for everyone insofar as not everyone will want to affiliate with a church or religious organization. Atheists, for example, are pretty much shut out of this option. You must claim and demonstrate a religious conscience objection to conventional insurance coverage in order to be eligible.

Healthcare sharing ministries enable members to band together to share costs and spread out risk. In that sense, it’s functionally similar to insurance. But healthcare sharing programs are structured much differently. They are by and for their members, and as such they are more sensitive to the needs of members.

The cooperative nature of health sharing ministries gives them advantages over top-down, bureaucratic Obamacare insurance plans. There are some disadvantages, though. You may not be covered for certain conditions, and costs can jump if medical bills among members rise more than anticipated.

“Ask Lee Now” is presented for general educational purposes only. Because we don’t know enough about readers’ personal situations, the opinions expressed here
should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument at any time. We will not be responsible for financial decisions that readers
make, and they should be made in consultation with their own advisers.