I turned 53 on Tuesday. My daughter made me breakfast. My husband gave me roses. AARP sent me another membership solicitation. It all adds up to one thing: senior discounts.
Like many, when the AARP pitch arrives in the mail, I ditch it. I'M NOT OLD, I say to anyone who is listening (usually just the dog). Just this season on the Netflix series Frankie and Grace, one of the characters — who is in her 70s — noted that she refused to join AARP because it means admitting she was all done. “There's an article in the newsletter on how to get over that,” another character rebuts.
I mean, what is old? I have some decent longevity in my genetic pool, so let's figure I make it to 90. That would have made me middle-aged at 45! I appeal that decision! And honestly at 53, I feel pretty good. It's hard for me to remember how old I am, except for when I see photos of my 25-year-old self and I remember that skin.
Act your age? Sometimes
Here are some tips on how not to feel older than you are:
Don't use a magnifying mirror in the bathroom.
Refuse the ophthalmologist's repeated suggestion that multi-focal contact lenses are for you.
Do not ask the doctor or the police officer their age.
Pluck that annoying piece of wire that keeps growing out of your chin.
Listen to today's music.
Continue to ask for your mom's advice.
And don't pay attention to stereotypes! Such as AARP is only for old folks! According to its own media release, “AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment security and retirement planning. We advocate for consumers in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.”
AARP has been engaged in a vigorous rebranding campaign for the last three years. They no longer call themselves the American Association of Retired Persons. They have been working to “revitalize and reposition the AARP brand as one that is ‘relevant to me' by delivering a message of strength and empowerment. The creative shows not only what the face of 50+ looks like today, but more importantly, the new mindset of people entering or already in this life stage.”
Membership costs $16 a year. That's four trips to Starbucks. And according to AARP, you get all kinds of amazing discounts and benefits from that fee, as well as information from their newsletters and publications. But is it worth it? It's always worth investigating these member-only discount offers.
Always do the math
Years ago when we were up to our eyeballs in baby formula and diapers, my husband and I thought about joining the local BJ's, one of those buy-in-bulk discount stores. So we used a guest pass and went through and picked up lots of baby- and toddler-related items — in large quantities. Then we went to the local Wal-Mart and looked at the same products (in smaller, far more storable sizes) and realized that when you broke down the actual cost (and added in the gas used to go to BJ's, which was considerably farther from our house) and on top of that the storage challenges, it was not a good financial decision to join the bulk club.
AARP does offer a car insurance discount, but you should shop around (it's so easy now online) for the best car insurance rate, and you also want to pay attention to how those insurance companies rank when it comes to actually helping you. It's all well and good to pay a low rate on your car insurance but when you need them, you want that company to have your back and cover your costs.
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There are myriad other discounts, ranging from florists to restaurants to your wireless bill. All are worth investigating and comparing to what you pay now. It's pretty easy to make back a $16 annual fee but think about how you live your life. It's like my husband always says when I hand him grocery coupons for name-brands: “The generics are much cheaper even without a coupon.” So don't spend what you wouldn't normally in order to get that 10 percent off. Eating out more on an AARP discount isn't better for your waistline or your wallet.
So many discounts, so little time
Do some more research and see what discounts are out there with no fees attached! There are tons, including lots of great airline discounts that aren't tied to a membership or miles or anything. You simply have to ask. Some start at 50, lots apply to 55 and older, and there are tons of them for 60 and up. My dad took great joy in getting a free coffee at Dunkin' Donuts every chance he had. I can get 10 percent off at Krispy Kreme right this minute, and I am only two years away from 10 percent off at Wendy's! Let's get this discount party started. I look forward to being carded again!
I am thinking that today, armed with the wisdom of my 53 years, I am going to take up AARP on their membership offer, and spend that $16. Partly I am going to do it because I think it is important to embrace who you are, and that includes what stage you're at. I am deep into middle age, and rapidly approaching being a senior! Bring it on!
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How about you? What discounts do you take advantage of because of your age? Any advice? Pitfalls?
Author: Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass is a nationally award-winning journalist who has been a reporter and editor for both print and online publications for 30 years. After a layoff in 2013, she now runs her own marketing/social media/PR company. Born and raised in western Massachusetts, she makes her home in Stonington, CT with her husband, their two children, and their rescued pit bull. Visit her website at http://www.elissabass.com/ to learn more.