A Guide to AARP Membership

There can be some great benefits to getting older, including the discounts and promotions that many companies offer to senior citizens. AARP caters to older people who are looking for benefits and a sense of community. The organization offers an annual membership that provides access to senior discounts and offers. In addition to saving money, AARP gives its members other perks ranging from publications to games to information about topics like Social Security and volunteer opportunities.

If you’re thinking about joining AARP, it can be a good idea to understand what is involved. “An AARP membership can be worth it for some people, depending on their individual needs and circumstances,” says Samantha Hawrylack, co-founder of How to FIRE, based in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Here’s a look at the costs of an AARP membership and the benefits to expect.

[READ: The Financial Perks of Growing Older]

What Is AARP?

In 1958, Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal, founded AARP with a goal of advocating for productive aging and health insurance for retirees. At the time, private health insurance wasn’t available for most older Americans. Medicare didn’t begin until 1965. So Andrus approached insurance companies and found one that would cover older people. The organization went on to develop additional benefits and programs that aimed to promote independence and dignity, provide a sense of purpose, improve quality of life and encourage seniors to look for ways to serve others.

Today, AARP is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan group that focuses on empowering seniors to choose how they want to live as they age. The organization has almost 38 million members and has offices in every state. AARP also advocates on issues that impact older people with a focus on topics such as health, safety and financial soundness.

The Age You Can Join AARP

AARP is dedicated to serving individuals who are age 50 or older, though there is no minimum age to join. If you have not yet reached age 50, you can become a member. However, younger members may not be able to access all the benefits, as some have age limitations and are only available to people who are age 50 or older.

Jill Taylor, a homesteader and founder of Happy Farmyard, became a member the day after turning 50. “I’d heard they offered discounts on everything from travel to groceries, and I wanted to see if their membership was worth the price,” Taylor says.

[See: 10 Tax Breaks for People Over 50.]

The Cost to Join AARP

If you decide to join AARP, you’ll be asked to pay a membership fee of $16 per year. With the purchase of your membership, you will receive a free second membership which you can give to any adult in your household. If you sign up for automatic renewal, you will only be charged $12 the first year. You can also select a membership term of three years for $43 or five years for $63.

When you join, you’ll be asked to fill out information, including your name, birthday and address. You can create an AARP account online and will also receive a membership card.

The Benefits of AARP Membership

As a member of AARP, you will have access to games and activities that stimulate brain health, including puzzles and quizzes. You can also get help managing your finances through money tools and assistance with security through the fraud resource center. If you have questions on Social Security, you’ll find information to guide you through the benefits available to you. There are free educational resources and services to help you find ways to volunteer in your community. You will also get AARP The Magazine and the AARP Bulletin.

[READ: 10 Important Ages for Retirement Planning.]

AARP Discounts

With your membership, you’ll receive deals and discounts that can be applied to travel, restaurants, delivery services, health and wellness products and more. “The AARP has already saved me hundreds of dollars on my travel expenses,” Taylor says. “Plus, I get a discount on my car insurance and my home insurance.”

Is AARP Worth It?

If you take advantage of the discounts and promotions available from AARP, you may find that the amount you save is greater than the cost of membership. Individuals who don’t use the offers might evaluate if the other benefits, such as Social Security information, games and the publications, make up for the cost.

“You always will be required to pay that annual fee even if you do not utilize much of the membership benefits throughout the year,” says Lisamarie Monaco, an independent life insurance agent in Jacksonville, Florida. “If you ever find yourself not in need of this service you can cancel at any time. You are not locked into a specific term.”

AARP’s Advocacy

Continuing with its founding principles, AARP works to provide benefits for the older population. It advocates for the continuation of Social Security benefits, along with programs to help American workers grow their retirement savings. It is also actively involved in efforts against age discrimination in the workplace and in society. AARP strives to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and improve the coordination of care and use of technology in health care.

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A Guide to AARP Membership originally appeared on usnews.com

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