How AARP provides real possibilities for retirees.


The last of the baby boomer generation turns 50 this December. Their initiation into the ranks of pre-retirement: a membership solicitation letter from AARP.

The largest nonprofit advocacy organization for people age 50 and older, AARP helps its members by providing a range of services including financial and insurance products, tax preparation, small business information, and the "Life Reimagined" program to introduce members to new possibilities. On Sept. 1, a new CEO was installed. Jo Ann Jenkins, a Mobile, Alabama, native who held stints as chief operating officer of the Library of Congress and head of the AARP Foundation, now runs the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

In an exclusive interview, Caroline V. Clarke, executive editor and host of the Women of Power television show, discussed with Jenkins her vision for AARP and what members can expect.

AARP has become a mammoth entity. What do you see as its greatest asset right now?

I think our greatest asset is the voice of our members. We represent some 38 million people in this country. They know what they want. They are advocates. They are social change agents. They buy every day in the commercial market. Really, their power and voice can bring about great social change in this country.

The last of the baby boomers will turn 50 by the end of this year. What is AARP telling those folks about retirement?

You've heard that 50 is the new 30. I say that's not true; 50 is the new 50, and we look and feel very differently than our parents' generations of someone in their 50s or 60s. We really need to own our age.

Most of our members don't want to think about that word of retirement. They are looking to do something totally different. Close to a quarter of our members, if not more, are not retired. They are thinking about working well into their 70s. We know that for many people it's an option to retire, and for others it's a necessity that they can't retire. We're trying to make sure that we're addressing the needs of the whole spectrum of people around that financial realm.

People are living much longer. How do you advise them on factoring that equation into their retirement planning?

For many people in this country, Social Security is the single source of income in their retirement. What we try to do here at AARP is have people think about that longevity of how much money and resources is it going to take for you to retire and live the lifestyle that you're accustomed to.

Today, people...

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