Fortune brings us the news that the AARP has loosened its requirement that one be 50 years old to join.
He's Jim Aley, he's 40, and, yes, he just joined AARP. Turns out that this organization of more than 36 million members is ready and willing to take in people who aren't "over 50," though that description still fills its literature and Web site. All you need to join is $12.50.
FORTUNE caught on to these surprising facts when a direct—mail pitch from AARP came to Aley, a FORTUNE editor. The first sentence of the letter said, "Our records show that you haven't yet registered for the benefits of AARP membership, even though you are fully eligible."
Neither shy nor retiring, FORTUNE editor Aley, with his children David and Lucy, is an associate AARP member.
So Aley sent in the application, scrupulously giving his birthdate as Dec. 25, 1965, and waited. Back came word that he was now an "associate member" — what AARP labels under—50s on its membership rolls.
Wanting to test the limits of this policy, another FORTUNE editor, Peter Petre, went to AARP's Web site and successfully signed up his 22—year—old daughter. We then retrogressed into the grammar—school set.
"How about my 7—year—old grandson?" asked this writer, as she talked recently to AARP executives.
Answered chief operating officer Tom Nelson, "I don't know how good his handwriting is. But if he sent in an application and put his birth date down accurately, we'd say to him, 'Grandson, you can be an associate member, but that's it.' "
Another reason for accepting those under 50 could be that AARP needs the members, immature or not. Its membership has grown since 2000 by only about 7 percent, while the number of 50—and—overs in the U.S. grew in the period by 14 percent.
I hope these numbers mean that more people my age (53) have caught on that AARP is a left wing political organization. (Every time AARP sends me a solicitation that includes a postage paid reply envelope, I send it back empty. I figure that's a buck less for them to use lobbying Congress for big government solutions.) Too bad Loomis can't see the irony here. AARP's younger members are paying dues to an organization dedicated to ensuring young Americans will spend a lifetime paying such high employment taxes that many will be hard pressed to save sufficient amounts for their own retirement.
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