SHOULD YOU JOIN AARP?

During the last year I’ve read a few articles posted on other retirement blogs and in magazines asking this same question. Should you join AARP? All of the articles, like most information about retirement, focus on the financial aspects of becoming an AARP member. In other words, are the discounts on travel accommodations, insurance and restaurants worth the $16 per year membership fee? Every article ends up saying for the most part you can get the discounts anyway just by virtue of your age as many companies give senior discounts starting at age 55 or 60. So, instead of flashing your AARP membership card, simply flash your driver license with birth date and you receive the discount without spending an extra $16 a year to get it. If you’re looking at AARP strictly for discounts, this is probably true, unless you’re in the 50-54 age range, in which case, joining AARP at 50 may get you some discounts you won’t otherwise receive. But, I didn’t join AARP for the discounts. And, I think there’s a financial aspect being overlooked in these articles.

When Ethel Percy Andrus founded the American Association of Retired Persons in 1958, I was only knee-high to a grasshopper just learning how to spell in Miss Niles’ first grade class. Spelling retirement wasn’t even on my radar much less what it meant. For Andrus, however, it meant taking up the cause of aging persons seeking dignity, quality of life and, yes, health insurance. In 1958 she saw a need to expand the organization she founded in 1947 for retired teachers seeking health insurance. At a time when health insurance was pretty much non-existent for older Americans, Andrus approached many insurance companies looking for one that would insure retirees. This, folks, is what AARP started out as and still is, a lobbying organization for older people. Retirees. Seniors. Persons of independent means. Whatever you want to call us. AARP is a voice for us in Washington and even some other parts of the world. Spending $23 million a year on lobbying efforts and with nearly 40 million members, it is one of the largest lobbying organizations in the U.S. AARP makes the aging in America a powerhouse to be reckoned with and listened to. Having graduated from Miss Niles’ first grade class to baby boomer rabble-rouser, making my voice heard in Washington, even as I age, is the main reason I shell out $16 per year to be a member of what is now officially only known by the acronym AARP.

Yes, I like the discounts I use from time to time. I like the magazine and newsletter I receive. And, since I’m also on the information highway, I like receiving financial, health and lifestyle newsletters in my email inbox. I particularly like their advice on movies made for adults (get your mind out of the gutter…they’re referring to intelligence and maturity). How else will I know which flicks are trending now and worth watching? Yes, I could trawl the web, Google this or that, and probably come up with the same info. But, being a little on the lazy side, I’m willing to shell out the $16 for someone else to do it for me. And, included in this bargain is a membership for your spouse, no extra charge. But, the biggie…a gargantuan lobby.

While some believe AARP’s agenda is too liberal with its focus on hunger, income, housing, health insurance and isolation, the organization certainly keeps the needs of older people in the minds of our politicians. And, with the money and sheer numbers, it’s enough to make any aspiring politico think about what could happen in the voting booth. With a family history of longevity on my side, I figure I have about 30 years left on this planet. And, being part of a generation who is used to having its way in the world, I have no intention of leaving my voice behind with the workplace. So, when I read about the financial ups and downs of paying out $16 a year, that’s $1.34 a month rounded up, I think there’s a financial component not being addressed. Just think if there was no AARP. Do you think our friends in Washington would hesitate to rip Social Security and Medicare to shreds? I don’t know the answer to that. But, I do know I’m not willing to chance it, not for $16 a year.

For information on joining AARP, go to AARP.org.

19 comments on “SHOULD YOU JOIN AARP?

  1. Thanks for nudging me to give AARP a closer look. I’ll admit to a prejudice against the organization since my parents cancelled their membership in protest back in the late 1980s when AARP very effectively lobbied against a new Medicare catastrophic health insurance plan that would have raised the Medicare premiums of AARP’s more affluent membership, but that working class elders like my parents desperately needed. If their agenda has become more attuned to the needs of working class and poor seniors in the years since, I for one would be happy to know it.

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  2. I might add that there are local chapters of AARP which usually meet once a month. This is a good way for retirees to make friends and local connections. Most chapters include social activities, and some have travel groups. There is a separate membership for the local chapter. I pay $7.00 per year for mine. Check the AARP website to find the closest chapter.

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    • According to AARP you can opt out of having your information shared. Like your bank and some other industries, information is not sold by AARP, but it is shared with affiliates such as insurance and travel companies providing discounts to AARP members. I did not opt out of the sharing and occasionally receive an offer in the mail for lower cost insurance or travel packages. I don’t mind this as they don’t inundate me with their sales pitch and it gives me the opportunity to compare costs with the providers I use. For a look at AARP’s privacy policy go to AARP.org.

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  3. I don’t belong to AARP and made the effort to be removed from all their lists. I’ve been candid about my reasons: They are in bed with for-profit insurance companies that put profits over health. I see there is an AARP alternative for conservatives, but none for humanist social, political and environmental progressives. I simply don’t support this group- and they don’t support folks like me.

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    • Hi Mary, Thank you for your candid response. There are things about AARP that I don’t approve of either but I’ve yet to find there is a perfect organization, which will totally mesh with my thinking. AARP offers insurance and other services through a subsidiary in order to achieve discounts for AARP members through volume. Most health insurance companies are for-profit, including the one I use. I agree that they often put profits over health. The only way for us to change the status quo is to get involved or create our own organization. I encourage you to keep speaking out. I often email or call my legislators’ offices and even the White House. Our voices can’t be heard unless we speak out. Thank you for doing so. K

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  4. I’m 50 years of age and I’m interest in maybe joining aarp. But what I would like is more information on it. IF possible please send me some information through the mail.

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    • Major, Thank you for visiting my site. However, I am not a resource for information on joining AARP. Please go to AARP.org and request information. There is also a lot of information available on their site. K

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  5. Many people are surprised to learn that the popular organization called AARP is only a marketing organization and not a life insurance company.

    In fact, the organization was originally set up by a life insurance agent as a strategic way to market life insurance to seniors. AARP is a large organization boasting over 38 million members ages 50 and over. They opened for business in 1958 and now have offices in all 50 states. In order to qualify for AARP life insurance rates you must also be an active member.

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  6. I have heard good things about AARP over the years. I was thinking of joining but now I don’t know what happened. The wasting your money on cheap bags when they could be helping people with the days that really can’t afford it but now is it even worth it? Because there’s a free bag don’t impress me. I don’t need it.

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    • I agree with you about the free bag. The money is better spent on helping seniors. The reason I belong to AARP is for the lobbying efforts in Washington. And considering the current political climate of calling Social Security and Medicare entitlements, when we, in fact, paid for these from our paychecks, is all the more reason to support AARP. There are those in Washington who want to cut SS benefits even to current recipients.

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  7. Love your post! When I mentioned joining and asked for feedback in social media, (after reaching the magical age last year), I received some of the same negative comments you experienced, all related to their political views. However, I love your comment, ” I’ve yet to find there is a perfect organization, which will totally mesh with my thinking”. I feel the same, and I have yet to also experience any employer (or presidential candidate) agreeing 100% on any ideas I share. Yet I still go to work . I have personally enjoyed the immense savings received from AARP and even recently enjoyed the benefits of the free movie screenings in my areas. I also have Triple A but now prefer the travel benefits and customer service received from AARP over the other. Thanks for your share!

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