Why I Joined AARP At Age 35

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY ROGER MA, FORBES CON­TRIB­U­TOR FOL­LOW ROGER MA AT www.forbes.com/sites/rogerma

I’m proud to say I’m now a mem­ber of AARP, short for Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­tired Per­sons. For those un­fa­mil­iar with AARP, it is an In­ter­est-based, non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on en­hanc­ing the qual­ity of life for the 50-plus pop­u­la­tion. AARP seeks to ful­fill its mis­sion through ad­vo­cacy, in­for­ma­tion and ser­vice. You may be won­der­ing then, how and why did I join AARP at 35?

There Is No Age Re­stric­tion

For the long­est time, I thought you could only join AARP if you were 50 and older, which seemed like a rea­son­able as­sump­tion. Ev­ery­one that I knew who talked about or re­ceived mail from AARP was 50 and older (e.g., my par­ents). How­ever, sev­eral years ago, I stum­bled on a deals fo­rum where peo­ple in their twen­ties and thir­ties were de­bat­ing whether join­ing AARP, to take ad­van­tage of the ben­e­fits, was worth it. Just like that, I started see­ing the world in a whole new light.

Mem­ber­ship Types

AARP used to have two types of mem­ber­ships—the reg­u­lar mem­ber­ship, priced at $16 a year, for those that were 50 and older, and as­so­ciate mem­ber­ships, priced at $12.50, for those that had not yet reached the age of 50. To be able to get the as­so­ciate mem­ber­ship, you had to call AARP.

Now, whether you’ve reached age 50 or not, you can join via AARP’s web­site. Mem­ber­ship is $16 a year, with the op­tion for a dis­counted an­nual fee if you opt into au­to­matic re­newal. As an ex­tra bonus, your mem­ber­ship al­lows you to add a spouse or part­ner for free, and they’ll even get their own mem­ber­ship card!

Ben­e­fits

With your mem­ber­ship, you get ac­cess to discounts for travel, din­ing, entertainment and shop­ping. I’ve high­lighted some ex­am­ples be­low, but feel free to re­view the full ben­e­fits guide for a com­pre­hen­sive view.

Travel.

You can save up to 15% at sev­eral ho­tel chains, in­clud­ing Hil­ton, Star­wood and Wyn­dam. In ad­di­tion, mem­ber­ship gets you 10 to 25% discounts on car rentals from Avis and Bud­get Rent-a-Car, as well as select free ve­hi­cle up­grades, dis­counted GPS rates and an ad­di­tional driver at no cost.

Din­ing.

AARP of­fers 10 to 15% off at restau­rant chains, such as Bone­fish Grill, Denny’s, McCormick & Sch­mick’s and Out­back Steak­house.

Entertainment.

Pay $9.50 for Regal ePremiere movie tick­ets pur­chased on­line, which are valid at all Regal Entertainment Group the­aters na­tion­wide. Note, that there is a pro­cess­ing fee of $0.50 per ticket for the first three tick­ets and $0.30 per ticket after that, so the all-in-cost at most lo­ca­tions will be $10.00 per ticket. In cer­tain lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing all Man­hat­tan the­aters, there is a lo­ca­tion sur­charge per ticket of $1.50, so the all-in-cost for those ar­eas will be $11.50 per ticket—still a great deal con­sid­er­ing a mati­nee ticket in Man­hat­tan costs $17.20! In ad­di­tion, you can save $3 on any size pop­corn and soft drink combo.

Shop­ping.

You can get 5% off do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional UPS ship­ping, 10% off the monthly ser­vice charge of qual­i­fied AT&T wire­less plans and 20% off on­line pur­chases at 1-800-FLOW­ERS, among other 1140-mem­ber-ben­e­fits-cardyear-2020.img­cache.rev116d63f103ebe27603e45b1­da6ea­caeb.web.360.207 discounts.

For me, the math was pretty sim­ple. I was look­ing to book a Hil­ton Ho­tel in Hous­ton, which was priced at $137 a night for HHonors mem­bers. How­ever, the AARP rate was just $121 a night, a sav­ings of $16 a night. Since I was stay­ing for three nights, I’d save nearly $50 in all, well worth the $16 AARP mem­ber­ship fee.

In ad­di­tion, although I haven’t stepped foot in a movie the­ater in years, I’ll likely start go­ing again with the $9.50 price tag vs. the reg­u­lar price of $17.

Bot­tom Line

No mat­ter what age you are, you can join AARP. Whether the ben­e­fits out­weigh the mem­ber­ship cost will de­pend on your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. For me, the sav­ings I re­ceived from one ho­tel book­ing more than paid for the an­nual fee. In ad­di­tion, the movie discounts are get­ting me in­ter­ested in go­ing to the movies again. And if that’s not enough, I may be able to use this as a con­ver­sa­tion starter as well. When I run out of things to say at a so­cial gath­er­ing, I can al­ways bring up that I’m a mem­ber of AARP, and to me, that’s price­less.

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