THE PERKS

The first time I really thought about the benefits of fitting the definition of senior, I was just shy of my sixtieth birthday. Considering there are places where 50 is the magic age of senior, I guess I’m a little slow. But on that winter day, I went grocery shopping like many other days in my life. I swiped my debit card at the check out, followed the bagger outside where he loaded my car and I drove home. As was my habit, after arriving home, unloading the car and taking care of all the cold stuff, I looked at my receipt to be sure I got the all the buy one, get one and other good deals. Then, I noticed it. There at the bottom of my tab. A 5% senior discount. SENIOR DISCOUNT??? At this particular grocery store, a 5% discount was given for anyone shopping on Wednesdays who was 60 or over. Sixty! At first, I felt a slight bit insulted. I wasn’t sixty. I was, well, 59 and 5/6ths. It must be the gray hair! They think I’m old. Maybe I should have kept coloring my hair. Whoa, wait a minute. I am old. Then, I thought, isn’t this great! Perks for old age.

While I wasn’t crazy about being called a senior or a retiree and I certainly don’t like the negative sounding definitions of retirement, the moment I realized there were perks to this old age thing, I was bitten. Heck, I shamelessly sported my gray hair as a ticket to more discounts. I started actively looking at the AARP website for discounts. I Googled “discounts for seniors”. I talked with neighbors, friends and family, even strangers. What did they know about the perks? What about where I lived? Maybe there was a state with more perks than South Carolina. So, I checked South Carolina’s government website. I knew about the $50,000 homestead exemption on property taxes for 65 and over. Despite already low property taxes, I’m looking forward to an even lower bill. What else was South Carolina willing to do for their seniors?

More Googling. Wow! Without even planning for it, I learned I was living in one of the top ten tax friendly states in the nation…for seniors. Thirty six states including South Carolina exempt Social Security benefits from state income taxes. But, another perk in my home state at 65 and over is a $15,000 deduction per person ($30,000 per couple) of retirement income, regardless of the source, from state income taxes. And we younger seniors can deduct up to $3,000 of retirement income, including public and private pensions and IRA distributions, from our taxable income. If you’re looking for ways to stretch your retirement income, look for one of the tax friendly states to call home. Hint: Most of them are in the south.

Looking for other perks for seniors, I found state supported colleges in South Carolina offer tuition-free classes to age 60 and over. If materials are included in the cost of the class, you have to spring for the materials. So, say you want to take a pottery class, plan on buying your own clay. But, the actual tuition for the instruction is free. Lifelong learning at no cost. That should give any retiree plenty to keep them challenged!

There are also the usual perks, like restaurants offering a free dinner, dessert or appetizer on your birthday, free coffee everyday with breakfast by showing your AARP card. Recently, I booked a hotel room for a trip we’re planning later this spring. The first thing I did, of course, was check their website for senior discounts. Their best rate dipped from $159 a night to a very pleasing $125 for 60 and over. I’ve heard some airlines offer senior discounts if you dig deep enough. There are senior discounts for that bastion of retirement bliss, the cruise. RVing? Look for RV parks offering senior discounts. When I’m 62, if the federal deficit doesn’t eat this perk, I’ll be buying my lifetime access pass to national parks for the unbelievable sum of $10!!! That’s lifetime, folks. Perks. Perks. Everywhere. So, even though I look for a better description for retirement than the one in the dictionary. And, even though I still think of a senior as some 17 year old about to graduate high school, from here on out, I will be looking for the words “senior discount” wherever I go. After all, old age has it’s perks.

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