AARP offers help to young people planning their financial future

LifetunerIn 1999 the American Association for Retired People officially changed its name to AARP to avoid the misconception that it was only for retired persons. Since that time, it has vigorously pursued baby boomers as they enter their golden years.

Now, the association seems to be reaching even further down the ages, all the way to young people interested in gaining financial wisdom, by unveiling a new Web site, LifeTuner.

LifeTuner is "an online personal finance community site born out of a growing recognition that young adults need to take a much more active role than previous generations in planning and preparing for their own financial security."

The site contains the usual personal finance background information, calculators and other tools, expert Q&A and a community section where users can engage with one another. Like most AARP products, it seems well thought out and professional, and will probably be as good a resource as any for young people who want to start down the road of financial independence.

Are you wondering why AARP, so successful as the voice of older Americans, now wants to engage young people? You should understand how the organization is structured.

Like many not-for-profits, it has wholly owned tax-paying subsidiaries such as AARP Services, Inc. which handle the sale of all those ancillary products that fill the AARP magazine; insurance, travel, investments and more.

In 2007, AARP dues brought in just under $250 million, while royalties from these products reached almost half a billion dollars. Paid advertising in AARP publications added another $121 million to the kitty. (Now you know why they hammer your mail box with membership offers).

Even if these young people don't decide to join AARP, the opportunity to pitch them on new products, from credit cards to mutual funds, will probably raise the take substantially.

The question I had after viewing the site, though, is whether AARP, by reaching out to a younger generation, is diluting its brand.

While it defends this move as an attempt to alleviate the pressure on older parents presented by children who can't handle money, that argument seems weak to me. AARP has a dominate position today as the voice of gray America, I see this initiative, while well done, as off-task.
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