Here's Why I Joined AARP At Age 35

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. That's a pretty big discount given a matinee ticket in Manhattan is $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 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.