Is AARP a Scam?

I was employed at the national headquarters of AARP in Washington, DC from 1995 through 2006 in their communications and outreach operations. These views and opinions that I express here are mine alone and do not necessarily align with the views and opinions of AARP.

The very short history of how AARP got started is this:

In Los Angeles during the 1950s, the first female high school principal (Ethel Percy Andrus) during her retirement formed an organization (the National Retired Teachers Association) to help make it possible for teachers to buy life insurance by spreading the risk of insurance payouts to a large pool of people.

That risk pool approach generated a lot of revenue from the sales of life insurance to teachers. An affiliated organization known as the American Association of Retired Persons was formed to make possible the sales of life insurance beyond teachers. That is how the abbreviation AARP came to be.

What is AARP today?

Over the decades, AARP became much more than an organization to make possible life insurance sales. Andrus became known as an elder rights activist. She ultimately established AARP in the District of Columbia half-way between the White House and Congress to focus upon lobbying of the executive and legislative branches in elder rights issues. What had once been an insurance sales operation morphed into national advocacy on behalf of the quality of life for elder citizens.

The primary reason why some consider AARP lacks credibility and is therefore deemed to be a “scam” is the simple adherence to partisan politics. While AARP members (people over 50) are said to split more or less equally into three groups—independents, Democrats, and Republicans, the people who manage and work at AARP tend to support federal approaches for elder citizens that typically have been favored and supported by the Democratic Party.

It was Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd US president, who signed the federal Social Security program into law back in 1935. From the days of FDR to today, Republicans consistently have opposed Social Security in particular and any federal government support for caring for elder citizens. Republican George W. Bush, the 43rd US president, in 2003 signed into law changes in the federal Medicare program to pay for prescription drugs for elder citizens, which AARP supported. That challenged one traditional partisan political view that only the Democratic Party cares about elder citizens.

If you can free your mind from partisan political filters you will be able to evaluate AARP clearly and accurately.

So You Think You Can Retire

Long ago, you bought into the dream that AARP sold aggressively for decades along with affordable insurance plans. Simply stated, the dream you bought into was about you and your future.

You put in your time at work. You maybe changed jobs once or twice. Mainly, you put in your time. Why? You bought into the dream. That’s why.

It was a comforting dream to embrace. You saw yourself in the future with gray hair and wisdom. You saw yourself playing golf all day in this dream. You dreamed of drinking ice tea on the front porch with your significant other as the two of you smile at the schoolchildren who walk by.

Your smiles in this dream came from one simple reality: You don’t have to go to work. Those days are behind you. No more grumpy boss. No more annoying coworkers. No more commute. No more business attire. No more computers or cell phones.

You dreamed of transitioning from the world of work into the world of retirement. Ah, what a lovely dream it was!

Hey, wake up! No time to dream like this.

The Great Recession changed almost everything in our lives. Nowadays, the concept of retirement seems somehow absurd. How can you retire? You need to keep working to keep generating revenue to support yourself and your significant other!

If you’ve been lucky enough to keep your home, the concept of wealth from selling your home at an inflated price also seems somehow absurd now. How can you possibly sell your home when it is worth less than what you currently owe on it?

So you think you can retire. Or, so you thought. Past tense. You’re beginning to accept ever so slowly that retirement is not in the cards for you.

Fantasizing about playing golf all day or sitting on the front porch drinking ice tea seems somehow absurd right now.

Growing older does not necessarily usher in relaxing days on the fairway. Not after the Great Recession.

Old concepts about carefree leisure years that follow decades of work have been pushed into absurdity and irrelevance. Instinctively, you know you need a new set of concepts to carry you forward while you keep working to keep generating revenue to support yourself and your significant other.

The concept of retirement seems more and more irrelevant each day. So many other outmoded ways of thinking no longer apply in contemporary life: Our planet is not the center of the universe. Nor is it flat. Or hollow. Changing the Constitution to make alcohol illegal did not create a safer or healthier society. Owning a house will not guarantee you wealth in the near future. You get the idea here.

Refocusing your life is what’s needed now. You know that.

All of us in the United States are living during a time of powerful paradigm shifts brought on by massive economic, cultural, and political changes. These commentaries on this website are here to help you find ways to survive in these challenging times in which we live by developing a viable personal brand.

Share you comments and suggestions with me. I look forward to hearing from you today!

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