8 myths about living in a ski town that need to be debunked

1. We love big events. Bring on another!

I’d bet my mortgage that there’s not a single person in Aspen who can’t wait for the X-Games to be over within 24 hours of the first drop-in. By week three of the Christmas holiday rush, every employee of a ski hill starts to look like Peter from Office Space (but with more facial hair), questioning their decisions and longing for a day when they don’t have to play ‘catch-up.’ The catch 22 is that pocketful of extra drinking money.

2. It’s impossible to have a good relationship.

The guy-to-girl ratios in mountain towns are pretty harsh and you may have heard about how everybody is sleeping with everybody else. This isn’t entirely false, but there is more to the story. I’ve found that when working and living in an environment of like-minded people, mutual attraction is all the more likely to spring up and because your interests are so similar, getting the ball rolling isn’t much harder than a few chairlift rides and a happy hour.

3. Those wide smiles at the end-of-season party are genuine.

Closing day is at best a bittersweet moment. The end of the season means the end of profitable work and for many, the termination of their job altogether. Anybody that’s acting like they saved properly and can coast through the shoulder season is kidding themselves. These next two months are going to be stressful.

4. The restaurant is slammed — these servers must be rolling in dough!

Maybe they are — but even if so, it’s only a few short months until the next shoulder season. Looking for a job? Take a look at the staff — how long does it appear the average employee has been working there? That’s usually a good indication of how much money they’re making, which is usually a good indication of how well the management/ownership takes care of their employees, which is usually a good indication of how good the food and service are.

5. “Nobody actually lives here.”

I know, I know. Those oversize mansions on the hills surrounding town don’t paint a good picture in the minds of average people looking to make the move to a mountain town. But it IS doable. It may require having multiple roommates or sacrificing square footage, but if I can pull off living in a mountain town, so can anybody else.

6. On the other hand, working in a ski town means living in a ski town.

As the cost of living in mountain towns goes up, landlords turn to Air B&B to rent their places instead of traditional leases. The result is more and more of the town’s workforce is being forced to live outside of city limits, often quite a bit of a commute away. Summit County, Colorado is a prime example of this.

7. This is just a temporary thing until we join the ‘real world.’

I’ve said it time and time again: if you’re not following your passions you’re wasting your life. There are many ways to craft your own ‘real world,’ and the longtime ski-town local that raised kids on the hill can tell you exactly how to get started.

8. You have to talk with tourists constantly.

Outside of Christmas, Spring Break, and other major holidays, the main patrons of ski areas are locals and die-hards, especially during the week. I’ve met people from all over the map while working at a ski resort, all of whom bring a unique perspective and passion to the mountain.

Contrary to popular belief, there are also office jobs and back-of-house roles in ski towns. Even when you do get stuck with a table full of tourists, taking the time to have a good conversation can make things easier for everyone (and I’ve heard multiple accounts of servers landing awesome new jobs from out of state restaurant guests, largely because they took the time to be friendly).

Breckenridge in September: Fall Vacation Guide

Breckenridge in September is the start of fall. Due to our high elevation, Breckenridge is one of the first places in the country where the leaves begin to change color. Visitors and locals alike flock to the trails and embark on scenic drives to see the vibrant colors of green, orange and yellow come together on hillsides, valleys and around town. But Breckenridge in September is more than just golden aspens- events and festivals fill the calendar and there are tons of outdoor activity options too. Join us for yourself and see what all the hype is about.

Myth 1: It is Always Hot in Africa

Yes, the Sahara Desert is in Africa and it makes up about one-third of Africa’s landmass. This fact leads many people to think that the majority of Africa is sweltering hot and vast, open land of emptiness. The truth, however, is that deserts aren’t necessarily hot all the time and much of Africa is not a desert.

The northern part of Africa where the Sahara is located is called Northern Africa, and everything south of that is known as Sub-Saharan Africa.

Here are a few facts about Africa’s climate:

  • It Snows in Africa. There are ski resorts in Morocco and quite a few other African countries. Africa’s high elevations experience snowfall, even those locations close to the equator. Locations in South Africa experience below-freezing temperatures throughout the winter.
  • The Largest Vegetation Zone in Africa is Savanna. People commonly mistake Africa as one gigantic desert. The truth is that Africa contains deserts, rainforests, mountains and savannas. A savanna is a grassy plain with only a few trees, and it’s often found in tropical and subtropical regions. Many people accurately describe the African savanna as rolling grassland dotted with trees.
  • The Temperature Variation is Vast. Africa is large, therefore it’s difficult to make any generalizations about the continent as a whole. There are, of course, changes in seasons and many different countries with different elevations. This makes it difficult to provide an average temperature. Asking for an average temperature in Africa would be like asking for the average temperature for North America and half of South America, combined.

This Is How to Respond to a Veteran Contemplating Suicide

This article originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.

Hopefully you’ll never need it. Sadly many do. Here’s what to say to a veteran considering suicide.

I’ll never forget him. Or his voice. That southern drawl made him sound sleepy, but there was more to it. He was weary, frustrated.

He wanted to kill himself.

It was a story as old as war: He made it home. His buddies didn’t.

He was a cavalry scout, an Iraq war veteran. Somewhere in Baghdad, one of the 15-month tours during the surge. He swapped with someone on patrol, the other guy didn’t make it. “Should’ve been me.” That kind of thing.

I was coming to the end of my career, and volunteering with a local organization as a veteran peer mentor. I wasn’t a mental health counselor yet, just trying help other vets. Someone in the program thought he was thinking of hurting himself.

So I called him and asked him.

That’s the first step: Get them on the phone.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not a medic, or a therapist, or a first responder. It doesn’t matter to your friend, and it shouldn’t matter to you: The fact is, you are now the one connection to life that they have. Intimidating? You better believe it. That veteran’s life is in your hands in a very real and critical way.

That veteran’s life is in your hands in a very real and critical way.

You have to view suicide like any other kind of danger. You would do literally everything you could to save your friend, whether it’s from a burning building, a car accident, or a heart attack. Suicide calls for the same kind of immediate action.

I asked him how he would kill himself.

“I’ve got a gun here at the house,” he told me. “I’ve tried before.”

You have to ask it directly. No messing around. No, “are you in danger?” or “are you going to hurt yourself?” or “you’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?” All of these questions can be denied. Don’t mince words. If they are far enough along in their thoughts, they think the danger lies in living, not dying. People struggling with depression view death as peace, not pain.

“Once, I got drunk and put a round in the chamber,” he told me. “I was so wasted, I forgot it had a magazine disconnect. It wouldn’t fire.”

Don’t judge them. That’s first thing to remember: It’s not about you. It’s not about how you feel, what you think, what you did this morning, what you’re doing tomorrow. It’s not about how shocked, or betrayed, or sad, or scared you feel. Your total and complete focus is on your friend, on the other end of the phone, holding onto you, holding on to life.

Once you ask directly, and get a positive answer, then you can move on, because you know what you’re dealing with — a life-and-death situation.

It’s not about you. It’s not about how you feel, what you think, what you did this morning, what you’re doing tomorrow.

Maybe you think you’re done at that point: “Now I know, I can call 9-1-1, it’s out of my hands.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Settle in, because it gets real from here. Listen to their story. Tell them you want to hear about it, hear about what’s going on. You can be clear with one thing, though: are they in a place, head-wise, to talk? If they’ve already taken some pills, or they’ve got some other means, and they are literally seconds away from taking their own life, then 9-1-1 is absolutely one to call. You can even tell them that: “Now that I know what’s going on, if you hang up, I’m calling 9-1-1 immediately. If you don’t want that to happen, then keep talking to me.”

So, if they’re not in immediate danger, take it slow and listen to their story. Something happened today, or yesterday, or this past week, to get your friend to this place. It is certainly going to be an accumulation of things, leading back to and possibly beyond their time in the service, but the chance is that there is something very specific that happened to get to this point. That’s the story you need to listen to. Without judgment. Is it because something happened with that dude or chick they’ve been messing with, the one you don’t like? Again, not about you. It’s about your friend, and their pain, their story.

At some point, something is going to come up that makes them move back toward life. A reason to live, a reason they want to live. Their kids. Their spouse. You, because you’re important to them too, if there’s nothing else. Don’t throw guilt, don’t throw shame, no “how do you think they’ll feel when you’re gone?” Just listen, and when they start talking about things that could happen in the future, then you may have started to turn a corner.

After talking for a period of time, they got some stuff off their chest, they might have gotten a reminder that there is some stuff to live for anyway. Here’s where you can start asking questions. What was your plan? What were you going to do? Because we need to figure out how to disable that particular plan. Pills? Let me have them, or give them to someone to keep safe. Guns? Rope? Let’s figure out how to keep them out of the way. Not forever, just for now, until we can make sure you’re safe. Probably best not to get drunk or high right now, because that keeps us from being focused. The best plan is one that you and your buddy come up with together, and then you confirm that plan.

Next step: Where are we going? Who are we going to tell next? Because we want to stay alive, right? If we’re not in the same town, who do you want me to call that will be safe to hang out with you until you can get in to see your doctor, or get into the vet center, or to see a therapist?

Once they’re safe — once you know they’re safe — tell them you love them like a brother or a sister, and how thankful you are that they chose you to connect with. Trust and believe me, it is an unparalleled honor to be the one who your buddy reaches out to in their darkest moment, and it will do you good to let them know that. Once you’re 100% sure they are in a better place and have someone safe near them, you can hang up the phone.

Trust and believe me, it is an unparalleled honor to be the one who your buddy reaches out to in their darkest moment…

Then you can focus on you. It will be one of the most draining and intense experiences of your life, but know this: You just saved a veteran’s life, and that is no small thing.

If you or a veteran you know is in crisis, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

This article originally appeared at Task & Purpose. Follow Task & Purpose on Twitter.

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Mark Lumia

Medicare season has just started, and, according to a recent study done by Bankers Trust, 31% of baby boomers said they had a “poor understanding” about Medicare, while 26% said they know “almost nothing.”

To add to that, 72% of boomers said they did not know that most Americans on Medicare pay premiums, copays and deductibles. As if those numbers aren’t alarming enough, one in seven thought that Medicare was free, and only 14% knew that Medicare does not cover long-term care.

When I first read this survey, I was shocked. The most important aspect of my job is making sure people understand every single facet of what they are purchasing. The financial adviser in me was very upset to discover these numbers.

I want to talk about Medicare from an angle that is evidently not widely discussed. My hope is that, by the end of this article, you will be educated enough to avoid falling into any of the categories listed above. I could start with the very basics, but those are merely facts that can be discovered by doing a simple search on the Internet.

What can’t be discovered from a simple Internet search are the myths, the secrets and the mistakes surrounding Medicare.

Myths debunked

Myth: Obamacare cutting $700 billion from Medicare will greatly impact you. The $700 billion cut in Medicare does not impact its patients as much as it impacts the Medicare providers. The $700 billion cut in spending will take place over a 10-year period by creating adjustments in payments to Medicare providers, not patients.

Myth: You have to be in great health to qualify for Medicare. If you qualify for Social Security or disability benefits, then you qualify for Medicare benefits as well when you turn 65. But if you don’t qualify for Medicare, you can still get Medicare benefits at age 65 or older. You would simply choose which Medicare parts you want (A, B or D) and pay the required premiums. (According to published reports, you can enroll in Part B without buying Part A. But if you buy into A, you also must enroll in B. You can get Part D if you’re enrolled in either A or B.) Determine your eligibility or calculate your premium at this website.

Part A of Medicare, also known as “Hospital,” as long as you or your spouse worked at least 40 quarters (10 years) and paid into the Social Security system, would cost . However, if you worked less than 30 quarters, your Part A premium is $407 a month, if you worked 30 to 39 quarters, you pay $224 a month.

For Part B of Medicare, also known as “Medical,” under the normal rules, individuals pay about 25% of the true cost. In 2015, individuals whose Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is below $85,000 and couples whose MAGI is below $170,000 would pay $104.90 a month for their Part B premium. Most people fall into this category, but Part B has income-related monthly adjustment amounts. In 2016, around 70% of recipients fall under the Hold Harmless rules and will continue to pay $104.90/month for their Part B. The other 30% don’t fall under the Hold Harmless rules and will pay at least $159.30/month. To find out more about Part B increases and the Hold Harmless provision read Medicare Part B premiums to rise 52% for 7 million enrollees.

Part C is called Medicare Advantage. When you enroll in a Part C plan you have agreed to let that health insurance company take care of your health-care needs. You would no longer be able to use your Medicare Card in the normal way. Medicare Part C plans come in many versions, such as Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Private Fee For Service (PFFS), Special Needs Plan (SNP), Medicare Savings Account (MSA) and Medicare Cost plan. Most people choose either PPO or HMO when picking a Part C plan. Most Part C plans include drug coverage (Part D) for no additional charge.

Part D is a stand-alone prescription drug coverage which is usually purchased along with a Medicare Supplement. You can find these plans by going to Medicare.gov.

Myth: The cost of Medicare is extremely expensive and having Medicare isn’t necessary. While Medicare costs may be rising with the growing number of seniors, its per capita growth is still slower than private health insurance. John Rother, chief executive officer of the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) told Reuters, “We may be reaching the point now where Medicare health-care expenses are growing no more quickly than growth of the economy overall. That’s important, but it might as well be a state secret as far as the public and Congress goes.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation projects a 3.1% average annual per capita spending growth rate for Medicare through 2019, with a projection of 4.9% for private health insurance plans.

Before Medicare was introduced, 35% of seniors did not have basic health insurance coverage. That fact alone is enough to disprove the myth that Medicare isn’t necessary. The cost of health care has risen and will continue to rise, and, since people are now living longer, Medicare will continue to play a vital role in providing financial security for people in retirement.

Medicare secrets everyone should know

If your health has changed, changing plans during the open enrollment period may be a really smart move for you. During the Annual Election Period (AEP), which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2015 for a Jan. 1, 2016 effective date, you’re allowed to modify your Medicare plan if you so choose. If your health has changed, you can use the annual election period to customize your Medicare coverage to meet your new medical needs. However, if you are trying to go from a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan back to a Medicare Supplement plan, you could be denied coverage based upon the health question on the application of the health insurance carrier you choose.

When it comes to purchasing a Medicare Part A and/or Part B plan, there aren’t too many intricacies involved in the decision-making process. However, you do have several different options for prescription drug coverage under Part D. Depending on your needs, you might actually save money by choosing a plan with a higher premium. You can go to Medicare.gov to compare Part D drug plans. Once on that Web page, just plug in your ZIP Code, pick your county, enter all your prescription drugs that you are taking and then compare the plans based on what you’ve entered. You can sort the plans that come up based on lowest cost to most expensive.

Traditional Medicare coverage may not cover the entire cost of services you receive. That’s where Medigap (also known as Medicare supplement insurance) and Medicare Advantage plans come into play. To cover the portion that your traditional Medicare plan did not cover, you can purchase Medigap from third-party insurers who offer coverage specifically created to fill these gaps in traditional Medicare. Plan F is the most comprehensive Medicare Supplement. Medicare Supplements no longer cover drugs so you will have to choose a Medicare Part D plan to cover your prescription drugs.

If you decide not to pick up a Part D drug plan and choose to do it in the future, there will be a penalty for that decision. According to Medicare.gov, “The late enrollment penalty is an amount added to your Medicare Part D monthly premium. You may owe a late enrollment penalty if you go without Part D or creditable prescription drug coverage for any continuous period of 63 days or more after your Initial Enrollment Period is over. Medicare calculates the penalty by multiplying 1% of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($33.13 in 2015, $34.10 in 2016) times the number of full, uncovered months you didn’t have Part D or creditable coverage. The monthly premium is rounded to the nearest .10 and added to your monthly Part D premium. The national base beneficiary premium may increase each year, so your penalty amount may also increase each year.”

You can also choose to go with a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is like an HMO or PPO. If you want a Medicare Advantage Plan, you must have Part A and Part B. Choosing a Medicare Advantage plan can take the place of traditional Medicare by combining coverage for medical services and prescription-drugs all under one roof, if you will.

Mistakes to avoid when enrolling in Medicare

Thinking you can enroll in Medicare coverage whenever you want is wrong. You need to know which enrollment period is the best time for you to sign up based off of the Medicare program of your choice. Making the mistake of signing up for the Medicare at the wrong time may end up costing you. Enrolling at the wrong time can result in higher premiums and/or holes in your coverage, all of which is avoidable simply by knowing when to sign up. It can be confusing because of the different enrollment periods: General Enrollment, Medigap Enrollment, Open Enrollment and Special Enrollment. The best time for you to enroll depends on several factors, which is why you have to get educated on your different options to get the most out of your chosen coverage.

Thinking that coverage for Medicare is free and covers every medical expense is a mistake many people make. Many people enroll in Medicare thinking that it offers virtually the same coverage as their employer-sponsored health insurance. This is not the case. However, you can sign up for Medicare and then choose Medicare coverage options that cover the gaps. There are countless ways you can set up your Medicare plan, and you have to make sure that you are educated on each part.

As you can see, there is a lot more to know about Medicare than what is revealed on the surface. In fact, there is far more to know than what I just revealed. It’s important that you get educated before making a decision, since you have countless options when signing up for Medicare coverage.

You don’t want to make a mistake that will end up costing you more money than necessary and/or will result in gaps in your coverage. These things can be easily avoided if you just take the proper steps.

The first step is to become educated on all the moving parts.

About the author: Mark R. Lumia, CFP, RMA, ChFC, CASL is founder and CEO of True Wealth Group in Lady Lake, Fla. and author of Thinking Outside the Money Box.

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