Some people dread receiving their AARP card in the mail. These young people can’t wait.
A rite of passage for those 50 and older, an AARP membership also is drawing younger folks determined to get discounts to cope with inflation. They shamelessly flash their cards at restaurants, often confusing the wait staff and amazing and embarrassing their friends and family.
Morissa Schwartz, 28, couldn’t believe it when she saw a TikTok of someone in his 30s saying young people could join AARP to score deals. She went to AARP’s website, realized it was legit and paid $63 for a five-year membership.
Recently, Dr. Schwartz, who has a doctorate in philosophical literature, dined with a friend at Bonefish Grill, where children can draw on the paper table cloths. Being kids at heart, they requested crayons. After spending part of dinner coloring and laughing, she handed her AARP card to an amused and shocked waitress as she requested the check.
“I can guarantee you she googled whether young people could join AARP after leaving the table,” said Dr. Schwartz, who lives in Morganville, N.J.
She has since inspired her parents, Sherri Schwartz, 59, and Leon Schwartz, 61, to sign up.
“Our daughter is an old soul,” Mr. Schwartz said. “She now has the card to prove it.”
Full AARP membership, which includes discounts on items such as prescription eyewear and services such as food delivery, is available to people 50 and older for $12 a year with automatic renewal. Anyone 13 and older can join online and receive many of the same deals.
“It’s never too early to sign up!” as the AARP website states.
An AARP spokeswoman said the organization is seeing a definite uptick in younger members but won’t share specific member demographic data. AARP said it has nearly 38 million members.
Chris Hemeyer started going gray in his 30s, so getting an AARP card felt appropriate, he said. Mr. Hemeyer, 45 and a member for about two years, sees his AARP card as a badge of honor.
A play-by-play radio and television announcer who lives in Lillington, N.C., he especially enjoys the hotel discounts he said typically save him $5 to $20 per night.
The savings have come at somewhat of a social cost. When he told his wife, Jessie Hemeyer, he had joined AARP, she rolled her eyes.
Upon renewing his membership recently, he got her a special gift: “Without her knowing, I signed up my sweet 37-year-old wife,” he said.
Ms. Hemeyer, a third-grade teacher, laughed when her membership information came in the mail.
“I don’t carry the card with me,” she said.
Roger Ma, a 40-year-old financial planner in Vienna, Va., said saving money has become “cool” among the younger set thanks in part to the popularity of the Financial Independence Retire Early, or FIRE movement, which discourages people from paying full freight for goods and services.
“With inflation continuing, people will look for creative ways to save,” said Mr. Ma, who has been an AARP member for about five years.
Sydney Phillips, 23, was recently out to dinner with her 76-year-old grandfather, Gary Phillips. When they were finished, the entrepreneurs both pulled out their AARP cards to get 10% off each of their meals. Ms. Phillips said the waiter shot her strange look but gave her the discount.
“You have to be brave enough to ask about it, show it and prepare for the double take,” said Ms. Phillips, who lives in Austin.
Zach Abel, 42, said he uses his AARP card to get discounts on British Airways flights and save $10 a month on his AT&T wireless bill.
After Mr. Abel, an actor and travel blogger, posted a TikTok in July 2021 about how younger people could join AARP, the organization said about 150,000 new members signed up.
Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP’s chief executive, messaged him on TikTok after seeing the video, and this year he signed a social media contract with AARP to create sponsored posts for the organization.
“Most of my friends who mocked me are now members,” said Mr. Abel, who lives in Atlanta.
Higher prices were the main reason Kira Burba, 25, joined AARP this fall. The teacher who lives in Arlington, Va., drives to work every day and was looking for a way to save on gas.
Ms. Burba said getting discounts at companies including Exxon Mobil gives her a bit more breathing room within the strict budget she keeps, enough to prevent her from completely sacrificing dining out and traveling.
Ms. Burba recently told a confused friend how she joined AARP. At first her friend didn’t understand how someone who wasn’t retired could join. The friend, also a teacher, is considering joining, Ms. Burba said.
Sarah McMahon’s parents waited until they were 55 to join AARP. She, on the other hand, thought it would be funny to sign up at 29.
Ms. McMahon has used her membership to book a rental car in Utah. That $80 in savings more than paid for her $12 joining fee, she said. Now the Dana Point, Calif., resident is encouraging her boyfriend, who is in his 50s, to join.
While she enjoys receiving the AARP magazine included with her membership, she admits it has taken a while to get used to some of the products, such as medical alert necklaces, now being marketed to her.
“They’re definitely meant for an older crowd,” she said.
This article was originally published in The Wall Street Journal on October 26, 2022, and written by Veronica Dagher
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