I’m fairly sure that I first received my first AARP solicitation when I was only a few months shy of 50. What? How did they know my age and why would they think I was interested? Not only had I not even considered retiring, the idea of getting older was still very foreign to me. In fact, I wasn’t even willing to admit I had hit midlife, let alone become a senior. But things change and here I am 14 years later. And yes, I am now a card-carrying member of AARP. This last weekend I sat down and read one of their latest publications and that got me thinking about why I find them helpful—and what I find annoying. Interested?
#1. Discounts. Like most people I think I first decided to join based on the discounts they advertise. The frugal me is always interested in saving money. Those discounts sound great, and once in a while I’m even able to use them. This last summer I did use the membership for one of the hotels we stayed in overnight. But I honestly can’t remember a time I used the membership for anything else. I don’t eat at the restaurants (Denny’s!) that offer a discount and I’m usually a better shopper when just left on my own devises. Sure it’s nice to know I can get a discount if needed, but in the long run there are other memberships that provide the same (or even more) savings.
#2 Information & Magazines. The biggest reason I retain my AARP membership is because of their reading materials. As a big-time reader (Thom calls me an information junkie) I find both their magazine (published every other month) and their Bulletin (published every two weeks) to be filled with interesting and helpful ideas. In addition they have a very thorough website filled with dozens of categories. Not only do they emphasis physical health as we age, brain health, finances, ways to save money and current news for those over 50—most of their information is unavailable elsewhere.
#3 Financial & Retirement Advice. Featured in nearly every one of their publications and online emails are several ideas and tips about ways to increase, plan for, or save money in relation to finances. And even though their full name is AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) their focus is not just retirement. In fact, just about all adults could benefit from much of their advice. Recently there has been a series of articles suggesting that as we age many of us will need to continue working, full-time or part-time, at one job or another. And they don’t just point that out, they also offer resources to help. For example, online they offer a website for job searching for older adults, ideas of what jobs might be most suitable, and things a person can do to improve their possibilities for getting hired.
One of the main reasons I even decided to write about AARP this week came from an article on finances that was featured in their October 2019 Bulletin. In an attempt to question common myths about saving for retirement, this article offered what I considered to be very SMART advice. The number one myth? “Wealth is not a Dollar Amount.” I couldn’t agree more. By understanding that our time is usually far more gratifying than the exact amount of money we have saved, and by asking ourselves how much money we really need to be happy and content, the author reminds us of something that each of us would be wise to understand. He also discussed how cutting back expenses was often a far better strategy than trying to earn more income. While I didn’t agree with everything he said, nor should anyone, I found his advice very thought provoking.
#4 Protection for Social Security & Medicare. I’m not even old enough to start Medicare (seven months and counting!) or eligible for full retirement of Social Security, but the safety of these programs is becoming increasingly important as I age. AARP routinely monitors and reports on current legislation that affects each of them, and heavily lobbies for the rights of seniors in these and all other health related categories.
I’m usually not a big fan of heavily endorsed lobbing groups, but I must confess that I appreciate knowing that a collective approach to safeguarding the rights of older people exists. And from what I can tell, they tend to take a nonpartisan approach to government so that regardless of political party, they focus on the broadest protection possible when serving their membership.
#5 Education. While AARP does offer entertainment options (every year they hold awards for “Movies For Grownups”) travel advice, and celebrity interviews, education is clearly a focus. I can’t help but believe that some of their current vision, innovation and approach to diversity is a result of CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. Since becoming CEO in 2014 I have noticed an overall slant to aging that more closely resembles my own. Nearly every publication I receive includes news and information that apply to all people—women and men as well as those of other religions, races, educational and financial backgrounds, etc. That focus goes a longways towards reminding us that we all face many of the same challenges as we age and that we are all in this world together. I also strongly resonate with their message of fighting ageism in our country. That will benefit me and all future generations to come.
Okay, so those are the things I like about AARP. What don’t I like? Probably the biggest thing I dislike is their constant barrage of advertising. Nearly every week I get stuff in the mail promoting membership or one of their other programs. If they funneled that money back into the service they are providing it would surely be better than the constant harassment of print and online solicitation. Oh, and I’m sure it would be better for the planet not to have all that garbage in our landfills as well.
The second thing that causes concern is the flip side of their political activism. While I’ve admitted I appreciate that they are staying active to ensure my rights as a senior will be there when I can finally use them, I am concerned that they throw their weight around against other worthy programs. Surely human rights are not an either/or position? I believe it is in the best interest of us all for all people to find basic resources so that we can live a long and healthy life.
Last month I finally went ahead and signed up for a five-year membership to AARP. The first year or so I only signed up for one year at a time to make sure it had value for me, and I would recommend that to everyone. In case you are wondering, I did not receive any compensation for this post. I don’t know if AARP is for everyone but I think it is SMART for us all to share products and experiences that work well for us. I also believe it is SMART to periodically stop and carefully consider the things we spend our money and our time on—to see if the benefits outweigh the detriments. At this point, our lives are much too precious to waste on anything that isn’t advantageous. So, what about you? How do you feel about AARP?