There will come a day when you receive a gut-wrenching letter in the mail, if it hasn’t occurred already. Is it from the IRS? The FBI? Your ex-lover/stalker fresh out of prison?
No. We are referring to the first letter you receive from AARP, signaling that you have reached the age of 50 and are now officially old. Inside the letter resides the dreaded AARP card, entitling you to certain benefits and endless jokes at your expense.
If this sounds like your reaction, get over it. You are old – and that is a good thing. It means you are still on the right side of the grass. We all go through this rite of passage, and it is best to accept it and move on. If it makes you feel any better, AARP no longer stands for the American Association of Retired Persons; it is simply pronounced by reciting the four letters individually, like reading an eye chart.
However, just because you have received a membership solicitation to AARP doesn’t mean you should automatically join. Just think of all the groups and activities you could have joined throughout your life, but declined instead, like that alligator wrestling club. That may be one of the things that kept you on the right side of the grass.
The membership cost is just $16 per year, and includes your spouse/partner. At less than a nickel a day, is membership worth the cost? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you may want to join AARP.
- Information – You will receive the AARP magazine and AARP bulletin, which cover many of the issues affecting seniors, and are particularly useful for keeping track of programs and upcoming legislation that affects seniors. You will also receive enough junk mail solicitations to theoretically heat your home for a month or two, assuming you have a fireplace.
- Financial Programs – AARP-sponsored financial services include a range of insurance plans, credit cards, ID theft protection, money management tools, and assistance with starting a second career or a business of your own. You will have to weigh each of the programs individually to see if any added costs are worth the benefits – there is no guarantee that you cannot get a better deal outside of AARP.
- Health Care Assistance – This is one of the AARP’s most well known benefits, including dental insurance, hearing care programs, Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement programs. With the fluid mess that is healthcare right now, it is hard to say whether any of these programs work better for your situation, but it certainly cannot hurt to check out your options.
- Discounts – Denny’s is a well-known redeemer of AARP discounts, but discounts are available at other restaurants and a wide variety of retailers – ranging from Michaels hobby stores to Geek Squad support to National Park Gift Shops. Even Angie’s List membership is discounted.
Many retailers offer senior discounts outside of AARP – however, these typically don’t begin until age 55 or older, so if you register at 50 you can receive senior discounts for a longer period of time. Let them all poke fun at your AARP card; you have the last laugh by saving more money.
Other benefits include Smart Driver Courses that can help you retain a lower auto insurance rate, car rental discounts, travel planning services with hotel discounts and roadside assistance programs, and even a dating service (insert your own “carbon dating” joke here).
So, should you join or not? You will have to decide that for yourself, but with the variety of discounts available, it seems likely that you will at least save your annual $16 in fees, if not much more. You will also have the support and wisdom of others who, like you, have also managed to stay on the right side of the grass.
MoneyTips is conducting a survey of hundreds of retirees to find out how they live today and how they prepared for retirement. We are also surveying working Americans who need to get ready for the next chapter in their lives. Read the preliminary results and take part – we’ll send you the results to help you prepare for the future!