Hartley: Planning 59 years ahead for a successful retirement | AspenTimes.com

Hartley: Planning 59 years ahead for a successful retirement

A few days ago, I did what any thoughtful father concerned about his child’s future should do: I tried to sign my son up for a membership in AARP, which either stands for the American Association of Retired Persons or the Association of American Retired Persons or, possibly, just AARP. Amazingly, nowhere on the association’s website is there an explanation of the acronym.

Regardless, I know it has something to do with retirement, and I want my son’s retirement to be as fulfilling and free of difficulties as possible, so I figured it made sense to enroll him. I realize this may seem a little odd, given that I have two decades to go before I’m of retirement age myself, but it was AARP’s idea, so I thought I’d just go with it.

You see, an envelope addressed to my son, Griffin, arrived at our house a couple of weeks ago bearing only the words: “Cards Enclosed. Please do not bend.” Given that most of Griffin’s mail is either junk or catalogs from places where someone once bought him underwear, I delayed checking it out under the assumption that it was something I would throw out immediately anyway.

Much to my surprise, when I finally opened the envelope, I found it was an offer for Griffin to join AARP at the low rate of $16 a year. Normally I would consider an offer like that too good to be true, but this one seemed legitimate. It even said, there in the first paragraph, “Our records show that you haven’t registered for the valuable benefits of AARP membership, even though you are fully eligible.”

Fully eligible, eh? How could I say no to an offer like that?

So I went on AARP’s website, found a phone number and made the call. A nice woman answered and asked what she could help me with.

“I’m calling on behalf of a relative of mine,” I said. “I’d like to sign him up for membership.”

“Wonderful,” she said. “You can give him the membership as a gift.”

The lady asked for my information, which I happily supplied, and then she moved on to Griffin, making sure to get the correct spelling of his name and his middle initial. She asked what his date of birth was. I told her. Then she asked what year he was born.

“Two thousand seven,” I said.

There was a long, awkward pause, and I could almost hear the woman doing the math in her head.

“So he’s a minor?” she asked.

“He’s 6,” I said.

Another pause. “I’m afraid minors aren’t eligible for membership,” she said at last.

“But it says right here on the letter you sent him that Griffin is fully eligible.”

“I think that must have been a mistake,” she admitted.

I’d love to report that the conversation turned hilariously funny from there, with me demanding that my son be allowed to enroll, but the lady was quite friendly, and I didn’t want to be a total jackass about it. In the end we agreed that these things happen, and with mutual wishes to have a nice day, we ended our chat.

But I still have a bone to pick with AARP, credit-card companies and all the other imbeciles who blindly send out offers to every address they can collect. It’s so stupid it boggles the mind. My father, who visited our house once five years ago, gets mail in our mailbox. So does my sister, who has never lived within 1,000 miles of Colorado.

And then, of course, there are the catalogs. On the day I called AARP, six catalogs showed up in the mail for my wife. That’s a fairly typical day’s haul for her, and I think she’s pretty representative of the average American female.

Doing some quick math in my head, that means that six days a week, approximately 900 million catalogs arrive from random, idiotic stores, most of which no one has ever heard of. Each week, that equates to more than 5 billion catalogs. That’s right: 5 billion a week, at least if my calculations are correct.

I understand that America’s catalog-and-junk-mail industry may be the only thing keeping the U.S. Postal Service afloat (or at least preventing it from sinking any faster), but surely we can find a better use for our trees than turning them into pulp for millions of catalogs a day that go straight into the recycle bin.

Todd Hartley is the president of AABPWHB. Look in the mail for your offer to join. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://www.zerobudget.net.

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