WTF AARP?

I’m am more than a little perplexed at how the media reports on early retirees. Most articles do their best to talk people OUT of saving up to be financially independent and enjoy the rest of their life in retirement.

This article from AARP is no exception. You would think that an organization seeking to represent people in retirement (politically and otherwise) would be a bit more positive, but many of the ‘warnings’ in the article are just ridiculous …

AARP: Ten Things No One Tells You About Early Retirement

Certainly some of the comments are spot on – that health insurance is expensive or that less time working means less money compounding. Still, many of their points are absolutely insipid …

  • First, the article warns that “early retirement isn’t for everyone. In fact, it isn’t for most people.” It cites that few people are able to do it as a reason it is not for most people. Perhaps if AARP’s retirement article was a little more encouraging more people would try.

  • Next, it warns that “quitting work can be far different than the fantasy” and that “you might have a long, long life ahead of you” thanks to today’s amazing health care. How is that supposed to be a bad thing?  Is it the vision of modern medicine that people might be able to work longer?

  • AARP’s #8 is a curious worry … “there’s a lot of time to kill”! Time to kill before what … you’re actually dead? So, it would be better to just sell your time to an employer because you might be bored? Shouldn’t AARP – of all organizations – be offering advice on how people can enjoy their time in retirement in interesting and fulfilling ways?

  • Warning #9 is as insipid as any: “You may need to make new friends”. It warns that you won’t have anyone to do things with because everyone you now will still be working. So, these people can’t do things with you anymore? Can you not keep your old friends and ALSO find new ones? ProTip: Having time to make new friends is part of the fun of early retirement!

  • The article ends on a obvious warning: “Retirement can be tough on couples”. It’s filled with sad statistics about divorce after age 60. Still, is this an argument that “early retirement isn’t for everyone”? Is it better to keep working than face the reality of your marriage? How does delaying retirement mitigate this risk?

Forgive me if you think I am being too harsh on America’s supposed premier organization for retired people. Still, they provide no solutions for navigating challenging issues other than picturing a binary choice between ‘Retire’ and ‘Work’. More work isn’t the solution to most of these challenges, and I’m thinking they should be spending their time promoting retirement and how best to unlock the promise of independence and enjoyment that comes from it.

Image Credit: AARP

16 thoughts on “WTF AARP?

  1. Chief, they should change their sobriquet to AAERP, in which the E does not stand for Early, but rather Elderly. Your blog is filled with real-world wisdom on how to carefully and diligently prepare for early retirement, and what to expect if one achieves it. Yet many will skip the diligence and lurch toward retirement. AARP may be right in cautioning the unsure, while you are right in teaching the commited.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like many other institutions in the US, AARP has been taken over by leftists. They would like people to continue working and paying high taxes.

    Most of the financial arguments they made in their article are based on emotions rather than based upon instructing people to understand the finances of retiring early. The financial decisions need to be made by Math, not emotions.

    Early retirement is a time develop new interests. For example, I am restoring cars and fixing my house. I am learning new skills by watching YouTube videos of excellent craftsmen teaching you their trade. I learned how to correctly fix stucco and was able fix problems myself that were caused by the original builder. I am know watching an 8 hour video series on troubleshooting and rebuilding automatic transmissions. The teacher is amazing and much better than the auto shop teacher I had in high school. One of my neighbors who runs a hedge fund see what I am doing and he wants to join me restoring old cars. He is even teaching me about his trading techniques.

    They are right about spouses needing to be on board. My wife has always left the finances to me and she worries about early retirement because everyone else doesn’t do it. I am trying to get her interested in spending the time learning the Math of investing and why we are different as a couple than her coworkers.

    The article also speaks to people who live to work, rather than work to live. If your self-esteem is a function of your work then you are setting yourself up for a rude awakening. You are just one corporate down sizing or outsourcing away from losing your sense of self-worth. When I was in my early 30s, I saw how the employees at a company I just joined was treating their older employees in their 50s. They were getting rid of all the employees in their 50s and replacing them with early 30s thinking the lower cost and energy would turn around their business (it didn’t). Right then and there I decided to save and invest enough so that I could be financially independent in my 50s, so I would be prepared for when the same happened to me. I doubt the acronym FIRE even existed back in the late 80s. I was simply worried about what could happen to my older self.

    I have three sons and they are now saving substantial amounts of their income and asking me to help them direct their investments into dividend paying stocks that offer reasonable yield, are growing and have stable businesses that have an excellent track record and will be around for the long term. Kind of like Mega Corp you worked for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The point “you’ll have a lot of time to kill” is perhaps most appalling. Implicit in it is that people are boring or can’t find interesting things to do. It sounds like your experience is like mine – you start something, it leads to something else, a friend/neighbor gets involved and a hobby/friendship grows. There are so many wonderful things to do/learn in this wonderful world that are better than sitting in a MegaCorp budget meeting.

      It is surprising when people aren’t ready for the inevitable MegaCorp downsizing. Millions have bought that book ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’ but few have internalized it’s basic lesson … know what you want out of life and “keep your parachute packed!”

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      1. I have known two of my neighbors for over 30 and 20 years. We are enjoying a do over of our teenage years, working on cars.

        My sons are already packing their parachutes in the 20s. A common comment is “Why didn’t I learn this in school?” I guess they need to leave something for Dads to teach.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wish I knew more about wrenching an old car. I have a few friends that have project cars that I would love to help on, but their projects are still collecting dust.

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      3. Keep in mind that AARP, like other “helpful” publications have articles that support their clients who pay to advertise. In this case, investment firms and long term care and life insurance peddlers. The managers of investment funds are rewarded and bonuses based on the amount of funds in investor accounts and if the total amount managed grew year over year. It pays for them to get publications to print scare tactic articles so people will prepare out of fear.

        The 457 fund people at my government employer couldn’t understand when I stopped funding my deferred plan and then I didn’t use the catch up provision at age 50. I explained to them how I would never need this money as I had planned well and invested thanks to living cheaply in my 20’s and now enjoyed the benefits of compound growth. I further explained that at age 70 when I will be forced to take withdrawals from deferred plans that I will be in a higher tax bracket than I was at say age 45 as I won’t have deductions for mortgage interest and dependent children.

        Most people are short sighted on tax issues thanks to advertising from realtors, tax professionals, and investment so called professionals.

        I recall speaking with a realtor years ago. He was touting why to buy as much house as you can with borrowing money thanks to the deduction. I explained to him that if I was in the 25% tax bracket, he was suggesting that I spend 75 cents in interest cost to save 25 cents. This is simplistic but it is to make a point. He didn’t get it it. I do recognize that most people think you should use borrowed money as leverage to make money on house inflation but as people who bought real estate in 1989 and 2006 with borrowed money…..leverage was not their friend

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Great points, Dave – As a former marketer myself I learned early on that “The primary purpose of the media is to deliver an audience to an advertiser” (definition from my Communications Professor).

        Your comment about being in a higher tax bracket in retirement than when working sounds familiar too. I just had this conversation with our financial advisor. Once we are required to take distributions, we too will be in the highest tax rate again. We have about ten years between now and then to take lower withdrawals and shift some $ to Roth IRAs.

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  3. Seems to me the AARP magazine is a ‘light and happy’ publication. Don’t want to scare those seniors with too much information or analysis, the depth of which will turn off a chunk of readers/members.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, but this article seems almost like a scare piece to me. “You’ll have a lot of time to kill” is not ‘light & happy’.

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  4. Here’s the weird headlines from AARP’s cover page today:
    (Not one article on RETIREMENT – all are about WORK!)
    – At Home Jobs That Don’t Require A College Degree
    – Going Back To The Office?
    – Getting Ready For The Hybrid Workplace
    – 5 Ways The Pandemic Has Changed Job Hunting
    – What To Do If You Want To Change Careers

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    1. A quick look at wikipedia on AARP has this point which could be why the headlines are not based on retirement.

      The AARP organization was originally named the American Association of Retired Persons, but in 1999, it officially changed its name to “AARP”, to reflect that its focus was no longer American retirees.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AARP

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good catch –
        Wow, their history is an interesting read. “AARP no longer requires that members be retired, and there are no longer any age restrictions even for a full membership.”

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  5. Several of your readers have rightfully pointed out the subversive and covert rationale behind AARP’s slant in its articles, so I won’t belabor the obvious fear tactics used in their articles. I simply quit reading their junk long ago as it has always been obvious to me. I believe this is one of the greatest reasons behind the rise of the FIRE movement. There is a big difference between learning anything from a positive advice standpoint verses a negative advice standpoint. Both can motivate for different reasons, but I believe most of us prefer the positive practical approach that most FIRE blogger have utilized to help folks reach their goals. Think about how nearly the entire financial investment community approaches topics surrounding retirement. Nearly all professional financial investment advisors (at least that I have met), provide advice from a fear standpoint in order to get you to utilize them for investment advice. The motives are simple, access to your hard earned money for them (personally) in bonuses. The same is true with AARP, they stand to gain by providing what insurance companies, investment firms, and healthcare companies want them to promote. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the negative fear tactics they utilize. What is really sad, is that our government also encourages the same behaviors because it wants more tax revenues (this is regardless of the current political persuasion in charge).

    Just keep teaching FIRE from a positive perspective. Anything taught purely out of fear likely has alternative motives. The FIRE movement is reaching more folks every day, and I think that’s encouraging for the future of our country and the world. In the meantime, just use the AARP article to line your new puppy’s carrier-cage! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought about joining a few years ago (and wrote about it). I didn’t see enough value in the membership for even $15/year, although a friend has passed on some of their articles. I ran across this article on my Apple News feed. It was a big juicy clickbait headline, so I couldn’t resist.

      You are definitely right – fear sells. We have a good relationship with our financial advisor, but many try to scare you into investing with the hard-sell. It looks like from the AARP Wikipedia page that Tech posted that AARP is primarily an investment/insurance company themselves. The whole thing is just a marketing scheme that looks helpful.

      Our puppy’s carrier-cage would be too good for AARP. He’s pretty well potty-trained at this point! 🙂

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