An Interest Group For Baby Boomers

Posted: January 08, 1992

If you're a senior citizen, you can expect discounts at movie theaters, restaurants or even some retail stores.

But if you're a middle-aged person with a mortgage and a child in college and another one in braces, you get zilch out of the discount department.

That's among the beefs of a national organization recently formed to help promote the interests of baby boomers.

Yes, that's right, that trend-setting group of Americans who were born between 1946 and 1964 have formed their own advocacy group - the American Association of Boomers.

Modeled after the American Association of Retired Persons, one of the group's primary missions is to push for radical change in the Social Security system.

That same goal has put them somewhat at odds with the very institution they are trying to emulate, members said.

"The AARP doesn't really like us as an organization," said Karen Meredith, 36, who founded the boomer group two years ago. "They thought that we would call old people elderly 'geezers' and engage in granny-bashing."

A former owner of an accounting firm, Meredith said she organized the boomer group after watching the influential role the AARP played in the passage of tax reform laws in 1986, and because of an incident that happened in her family. Her parents and divorced sister went out to a movie. The parents got senior citizen discounts on their tickets while the sister, who was struggling to raise two children, did not.

"They're better off than she was," Meredith remarked.

Also, she said that as a personal financial planner, she was concerned that unless something was done, Social Security would be bankrupt before anyone

from her generation was eligible. As the population ages, fewer workers will be paying into the fund, while more people will be withdrawing money. Contrary to popular belief, she said, "there is no bank account anywhere, no savings account" for Social Security.

"The public has not been told the truth about how the Social Security system really works," Meredith said. "It's a generational pyramid scheme."

As part of their mission, the boomer group sends its members annual publications with the names, addresses and telephone and facsimile numbers of various branches of the federal government. For a $10 annual membership fee, the group also provides rental car, auto club and travel discounts as well as discounts on copy machines, and access to a no-load, money market mutual fund account.

"Their (the AARP) agenda has been extremely selfish and when they started, it was rightfully so. When they started, the elderly population was (largely) poor . . . but now the AARP and the senior groups have been very good at fencing off their area and getting their share of pie," Meredith said. "I hope that our agenda will not be as selfish."

"I can see both sides of it," said Lorraine Clark, an area representative in AARP's regional office in Dallas, Texas. "I'm not sure that our official stand has been to accept the fact that Social Security will not be there for baby boomers when they reach retirement age . . . I guess AARP's position is that we (Americans) will honor that obligation when the time comes."

She said that the AARP benefits everybody.

"We're for the boomers just as we are for ourselves," Clark said. "These are our children. Their children are our grandchildren."

Founded in 1958, AARP has more than 32 million members over the age of 50. In contrast, the new boomer group claims 20,000 members, has two paid staffers and operates out of a storeroom in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Organizers hope that one day, the group, which now has no real budget, will be as large as the AARP.

"One of the reasons why we need a group like this is, we're going to go down in history whether we like it or not," Meredith said.

BENEFITS

FOR BOOMERS

* Busch Entertainment theme parks, including Busch Gardens and Sea World: 10 percent off admission.

* Classic World Travel, travel discounts, rebates.

* Alamo Rent-A-Car, discounted rates; unlimited mileage.

* Hertz Rent-A-Car, discounts; unlimited mileage.

* Cigna Road and Travel Club, $12 fee, includes emergency towing.

* Airborne Express, certain discounts.

* Personal Financial Organizer, discounted price.

* Vested Interest Magazine, financial information magazine at a discount.

* Money Market Account, from American Capital Reserve Fund.

* Kaplan Educational Centers, discounts on tests.

* Discounts on fax machines, copiers, laser printers and other machines.

A free information brochure about the American Association of Boomers may be obtained by calling 800-874-8456 or writing AAB, 2621 W. Airport Freeway, 101, Irving, Texas 75062.

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