Sunday, April 17, 2011

Should I Join AARP?

     I remember when I received my first solicitation to join the American Association of Retired Persons. It came in the mail, shortly after I turned 50. And I was insulted. I was nowhere near retirement, and not the slightest bit interested in joining the club for old people.

     A few years later I was forced into early retirement, and after my COBRA ran out I was searching for medical insurance for myself and my family. I recalled those AARP mailings and thought maybe they could help me. I went online and found nothing. So I called them up and spoke to a very nice woman who told me AARP offers supplemental insurance for people 65 and over who are on Medicare. But they only offered Major Medical in certain select areas. Where did I live?

     New York.

     The woman clicked a few buttons, then informed me that AARP offers no regular medical insurance "in my area."

     In my area? New York? The third largest state in the country -- we're talking about nearly 20 million people.

     Sorry. Not New York. We do offer supplemental insurance in New York.

     But that's for people 65 and over. You say your organization is geared for people starting at age 50. One of the biggest issues for people in their 50s is how to get medical insurance. A lot of people have retired early, or they've been laid off, or they work for a company that doesn't offer medical insurance.

     Sorry. We offer Major Medical in some areas. But not New York.

     So you can't help me until I turn 65?

     When you're eligible for Medicare Parts A and B. But we have a lot of other benefits.

     But no medical insurance. So I hung up the phone and wrote AARP off my list. I went on to obtain medical insurance through an association I belong to through the work I do. And ever since then I have ignored all entreaties to join AARP. Honestly, I didn't get too many after that conversation. I must have sifted down to their B list, or their C list. But lately, I've been getting more offers by email. They must have a new list. And now that I'm 60, not 50, I'm wondering again if there's any reason to join AARP. They might be able to offer me some medical coverage in a few years, and in the meantime, maybe there are some benefits I could use.

     I knew they have a magazine -- I used to flip through it when I visited my mother-in-law, back in the 1980s. She always had a copy on her coffee table in her retirement complex in Florida. And every once in a while I'd see a copy at the library. Usually there'd be a picture of some middle-age movie star on the cover, someone like Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange or Kevin Costner. And I'd think, the magazine is trying to appeal to 50 year olds. But the benefits they offer are geared to people over 65. What are they trying to pull?

     But now that I'm closer to 65 than I am to 50, I've looked at a few of those recent emails. The last one I got promised a 30 percent discount on glasses, and 25 percent off for various footwear products. Plus, 30 off certain "approved" medications. There was also an AARP credit card offering 3 percent cash back on "eligible" purchases.

      Hmmmm. I could use a new pair of glasses. But these seemed like pretty common discounts. Meanwhile, my medical insurance offers a discount eye program. I have a Visa card that gives me 5 percent cash back on certain purchases and 1 percent cash back on everything else. As for the medications, my current medical insurance requires me to pay only a modest amount for drugs. I have no idea if the AARP drug plan is any better. But it doesn't matter much for me anyway because, fortunately, I don't use many drugs.

      AARP also offers me the "opportunity" to contribute to the AARP Foundation, which helps low-income people meet their basic needs. I'm sure this is a valuable foundation. But I already have plenty of other opportunities to support worthy causes.

     I checked out another email, then followed a link to the AARP website to search out more benefits. Discounts at Border's and Tanger Outlet stores. Discounts at various hotels and car-rental companies. These discounts seem to parallel the discounts I get as a member of AAA -- 5 percent here, 10 percent there.

     AARP does offer auto insurance and homeowner's insurance. But after the medical insurance episode, I wondered if you have to be over 65 to take advantage of these offers, or if you have to live in certain states. And since the other AARP discounts seem about the same as AAA discounts, I can't see why they'd be anything special.

     I also noticed that AARP offers a legal service, with a 20 percent discount on lawyers' fees. I'm not going to sue anyone in the near future, but this might come in handy next time we sell our house, or if we want to update our wills or write a DNR order.

     So I conclude that there's nothing "wrong" with AARP. It might offer some people some modest benefits, if you don't belong to AAA or any other similar organization. But if you do belong to AAA, the financial benefits seem redundant.

     Otherwise, it seems, there's no point until you turn 65 and start looking for supplemental health insurance. So, I'll give them a call in a couple of years.

     But I'd love to know -- am I missing something? Is there an AARP benefit I might need? What does AARP do for you? And would you recommend it to a Baby Boomer like me?



Hope said...

We've had an AARP membership since my DH turned 50 (now 14 years ago). It's cheap and we have easily made up for the cost in hotel savings. If you travel, many hotels have an AARP rate. Not a huge discount, but it all adds up. We also enjoy the magazine.

At one point, we were drawn in by their bright envelopes promising they could save us a LOT on auto insurance, so we had them quote us. They couldn't compare to our existing State Farm coverage, so we had no reason to switch. I can't imagine their other insurance options are any better.

Their credit cards are no better or worse than anyone else. We used an AARP VISA for a while, but their interest rates went up with all the others, and our rebates on other cards are better. We haven't cancelled them (why take the hit on my FICO), but they're sitting around in a drawer gathering dust.

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas said...

Hope is right. You can save some money on hotels and motels and that's useful if you travel a lot by road, not so much if you travel by air. But there is something about all these "discounts", many of them are phony. It is often x% off the regular price and you may find you aren't saving anything or just 1-2%.

The other thing to consider is what AARP does with the proceeds. They donate to political parties and candidates. With a heavy emphasis on the Democratic Party. If you agree with that, that's fine. If you don't then you might want to decline.

June said...

I couldn't wait to sign up for AARP when I got my first mailing. I was a member for a few years, and then figured it wasn't worth the cost of membership.
If we're spending all our $$ on health insurance, how worthwhile are discounts that apply if we could travel all over the country?

Kay Dennison said...

I don't belong. I can't afford to travel much. My take is that AARP is for people richer than me.

Dick Klade said...

Been a member nearly 20 years. Experiences have been both good and bad. The bad was auto insurance recently. I canceled them and got a better deal from State Farm. Otherwise, we have benefitted from some restaurant discounts and hotel-motel deals not available from others. The magazine usually has enough good tips for us to justify the dues. said...

David and I have our cars instured through AARP. The company doing the insuring is The Hartford. We like it very much. Someone hit David's car parked out front and The Hartford handled it very well. We also have the Homeowners Insurance through AARP/Hartford.

Robert the Skeptic said...

The wife and I are AARP members. The magazine and the newsletter/newspaper have mostly the common fare of pop culture blather, like how to improve your sex life, etc. However, they also occasionally have some very succinct and useful articles about social security, medicare and such.

For example, we tore the 4 page section of the newsletter out and saved it as it had good information on Medicare this month. The rest we toss.

When we book motels or travel online, we check under different status types (AARP, or AAA, etc.) to comparison shop.

I think for people who have no access to any health insurance or supplemental insurance, it may be a good deal.

AARP is listed as a lobbying entity and members of the organization have (individually) made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates, but have ALSO contributed to Republican candidates. They were supporting candidates who had a positive bent toward medical care reform.

Some seniors who were against the medical reforms (60,000) quit their AARP membership and started the "American Seniors Association".

Anonymous said...

You can read the AARP magazine for free, online:

Other than that, I wouldn't send them a dime. AARP is a left, leaning liberal rag mag. A few years ago, they sold their souls and their senior members down the tube by being on the wrong side of medical reform.

Strayer said...

All I know is I am mid 50's and they send me the recruitment mailings in spurts. I'll get about five then none for a few months, then more, that include a card with my name on it, like that's supposed to impress which it doesn't. They wouldn't be one bit of good for me, since I haven't the money to travel, nothing but a money pit. Another one. I got plenty of those already. They're sure determined though. I am wanted.

Anonymous said...

I've been a member of AARP for several years, and my husband and I would benefit from the hotel discounts, but we no longer travel as much as we used to. We used to (and still do) received mailing from the supplemental insurance (or Medigap) company that AARP endorses, and I was planning on getting it when it was time to sign up for it. In the meantime, however, after going on the internet and researching other supplemental plans, we opted to go to one that was much less expensive than the plan AARP endorses (United Healthcare Insurance Co.) All of the supplemental Plans are regulated by Medicare, and they are all the same for the various plans, i.e. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. The only difference is the cost. When you consider all of the high cost advertising that the AARP endorsed Plans do on TV and in magazine, you can understand why it is more expensive to buy.

Having said that, I do enjoy some of the articles in AARP's magazine and bulletin, and they are also informative.

-- Marbar

Kathy Sterndahl said...

I joined when they first sent the offer, but after the first year I realized that there was nothing there for me. I do enjoy the online version of the magazine, though, and follow them on Twitter to get the latest updates.

Old Dog Learning New Tricks said...

For another perspective on AARP, I'd suggest reading this hyper-link:

Anonymous said...

I am about to turn 50. Been waiting to join AARP as I thought for some reason it was a huge advocacy group. My folks are members and I read their magazines. So, I've been looking into 20 year term life insurance for me and my SO. Wow did I get an education about AARP. I went to the website and if you want help, it takes you to NY Life. I'd rather ask the questions of an advocate first, then go to the sellers, right? So I call AARP. I get someone on the phone who was nice, but the only thing she could answer was that I'd have to talk to the NY Life rep. So I do that. First, she was nice as well. I told her I was shopping for 20 year level term policies. She said they could help. THEY CAN'T. First, the cap on their policy is $100K. However, it goes up every 5 years and they will cover you until you're 80. No part of that is level term. I say that. She tells me well...the level part is the $100K. I say that isn't the same thing. I ask, so you can't give me a 20 year level term,? She tells me that in 20 years I can convert the policy to whole life. HUH?!!! I also say that level term has the same payment 15 years in, as the same month I start paying. Nope. Not with the NY Life AARP policy. So, just for giggles, I ask her to run the numbers. Seriously. When you start to see the cost increases every 5 years, you should just think about saving that much in an account and you'll be better off. Needless to say, I was wholly unimpressed by the purported advocacy organization. Funny, I want to Zander Insurance and ran the numbers and if you look at the cost differences I think you'll say SHAME on AARP as well as NY Life. Don't take my word for it. Go run the online estimates yourself and then call AARP. You'll be FLOORED. And so far, of the discounts I've seen, USAA or one of the driver club discount regimes seems to serve just as well. Pity.

Anonymous said...

AARP's various insurance offerings are probably not the best. But I do enjoy reading the magazine and bulletins. I spend money on other publications which aren't that great, so AARP's are just fine for me and usually include some good information and tips.

Too, AARP membership is a whole lot cheaper than AAA's (obviously AARP does not include any auto-related services). Basically the same hotel and restaurant discounts as AAA for much less (membership).

I don't travel long distance by car anymore, mainly fly to my destinations. I do use car rentals on rare occasions, at my destinations. When I travel, I use my AARP membership to get the hotel (and other services) discounts. Works well for me.

(FYI I use my auto insurance for local roadside emergencies instead of AAA. I think AAA provides great auto-related service, just opted not to use it for now)

Anonymous said...

When I was in my 50's, I signed up for AARP. Seemed an OK thing to do at the time. After all, I was getting up there and felt I should help stand up for us getting-older-folks.

But then the head of AARP endorsed some brain-dead idea of George W. Bush that I said to myself: the hell with them. I dropped them like a hot potato.

Yes, they are an advocacy group, but a weird and awkward one at that.

Anonymous said...

I get all these entreaties to join AARP, but when I looked into it, the benefits are pretty slim. The Automobile Club has better discounts, and I can get a tow if I need it.

Then, as a previous commenter stated, there's AARP's heavy-duty contributions to the Democrats, and their unprincipled support of Obamacare.

anthony willis said...

I'm 39yrs old why am I getting aarp card am I not to young ????

Anonymous said...

I promise to bad mouth "Obamacare" when the repukelicans come up with a better plan..actually if they have ANY plan that will help defer medical insurance and medical costs. Meanwhile na-sayers hope to keep what we have. If you republicans want to spend your money on some more wealthy helpers of the rich, I suggest to join te AMAC, the conservative alternative to the AARP. This should make your hearts beat wildly with anticipation!

John Alex said...

You can get services of Medicare Annual Wellness Visit by staying at your home. It can really help you out to get great health. Your AWV is all-inclusive. The visit embraces a review of your medical history, defensive tests, screenings as well as planning for a vigorous future.

Kirk said...

I've never had a good opinion of AARP. Other than shilling for insurance, they lobby for causes that I usually don't support.

As for hotel discounts, I often tell the desk clerk that I'm a member, and they never check. Same for AAA.

Anonymous said...

AARP harassed me to join when I was in my fifties, and for that reason alone, I never succumbed to their pressure. Also, I didn't want to be called "senior." My colleague and I used to say that we would "summon them when ready" and that they needed to lay off.

They have backed off some, maybe a postage issue, but I still get mailings from them, but not at the rate that I did when I was in my fifties.
I will never join, because I don't like paying an annual fee for services that I'm not sure that I will use...not worth it to me.

I am interested in finding affordable term life insurance though.

kaiserdr said...

My wife and I have been a member of AARP for 20 years. Up to three years ago I paid their three-year-rate and saved a few bucks. The last time I attempted to sign up they had increased the "dues" dramatically. I argued with them and got a reduction in the dues. As at age 71 I am still working part time I travel often, and find most hotels have "senior" rates $5 to $10 cheaper than AARP. AARP is solely a political organization, using profits from insurance sales to supports its agenda, which usually conflicts with mine--I will not rejoin.

Jr. Williams said...

Can you please list some real benefits to AARP membership?
You Don’t Know aarp

Gowri said...

Very wealthy information. And those key points in which you had mentioned is very useful and also some valid points too. Really nice thank you so much

Medical Insurance Plans

Health Insurance UAE

Insurance Companies in Dubai