At 37, I’m proud to say I’m a member of AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons.
For those unfamiliar with AARP, it is a nonprofit organization focused on enhancing the quality of life for the 50-plus population.
You may be wondering then, how and why did I join AARP (at age 35!).
For the longest time, I thought you could join AARP only 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 that age category (e.g., my parents). However, several years ago, I stumbled on a deals forum where people in their 20s and 30s 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.
AARP used to have two types of memberships – the regular membership, priced at $16 a year, for those who were 50 and older, and associate memberships, priced at $12.50, for those who 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.
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 hotel chains such as Hilton, Best Western and Wyndham. In addition, membership gets you up to 30% discount 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: Save 20% on Regal ePremiere movie tickets purchased online, which are valid at all Regal theaters nationwide. In certain locations, including all Manhattan theaters, there is a location surcharge per ticket. 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 and 20% off online purchases at 1-800-FLOWERS or 20% when you spend $79.99 or more, among other 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 Hilton Honors 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 20% discount.
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. 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.
Roger Ma is a certified financial planner, founder of financial-planning firm lifelaidout, and is currently writing a career and personal finance book to be published in early 2020. A version of this column previously appeared on Forbes.com