Why I don't need a senior discount

A motor lodge advertises a senior discount.

Reputable economists are predicting that Baby Boomers will bankrupt Social Security and Medicare. And millennials are none too pleased by this prospect. Some have even taken to calling us parasites and leeches.

At the risk of offending my fellow Boomers, I propose that we give up our senior discounts. It seems like the least we can do. After all, every time I get an old age price break, a Gen Y-er somewhere is subsidizing me.

As a 57 year old, I qualify to purchase a host of goods and services at prices 10-20 percent lower than my under-50 friends. I've racked my lawyer brain, but can't come up with any justification for this "youngster tax." While this seems like a form of reverse-age discrimination, it's not illegal. That's because those laws only apply to employers.

These discounts have been around since the 1950s and were instigated by AARP. They now pervade almost every industry-from restaurants to hotels to clothing stores to the national parks.

Perhaps there was some justification for giving oldsters a break 60 years ago, when Social Security benefits were stingy, people retired at 65, and expired soon thereafter. But, things have changed. Today people over 65 are less likely than younger people to live below the poverty line. Not only that, they have the highest net wealth of any age group.

These discounts are now absurd. If I live to 100 I'll be entitled to a senior discount for half of my life. I, like a lot of Boomers, don't need the price break. A recent college graduate who can't get a job is more deserving.

I'm appealing to my generation -- why not be a little magnanimous and give up your senior discounts? If nothing else, it might buy you some good will with your kids.

About the author

Lorie Eber speaks and blogs about aging and elder care at AgingBeatstheAlternative.com.
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I'm sick and tired of hearing the Marie Antoinettes and King Louie's on MarketPlace.

From yesterday's WaPo: "Problems for future retirees seem to be closing in from all sides. Half of American workers have no retirement plans through their jobs, leaving people on their own to save for old age.... Overall, people ages 55 to 64 have a median retirement account balance of $120,000, Boston College researchers have found, which is enough to fund an annuity paying about $575 a month, far short of what they will need." [h/t Digby]


Madam Counselor should rest content with having decided to make this magnanimous beau geste herself, without dragooning the rest of us elders into the scheme. Perhaps her affluence makes this action feasible for her, but millions of seniors find themselves living in 1935, albeit in living color. Consider: savers who've sacrificed all their working lives to put money by in safe, insured investments like CDs are realizing returns of a fast $48 bucks a week on $250k, and $192 bucks a week on $1 million. My Medicare and Medigap premiums and Part D prescription copays, together with non-covered dental bills, take one-third of my Social Security benefits. Please stop spinning this mythopoesis of "the richest generation." Ours is as variegated a group as is to be found in this country, and the "greedy geezer" meme is propagandistic rot.

You're correct about why the discounts were initiated. I think some boomers who are entitled don't ask for the senior discount because they don't want to disclose their age or because it makes them feel old.

Funny, the experience in my family is exactly the opposite of that in Ms. Eber's. Both of my parents, full-time employed for 35+ years, received not only Social Security but also defined benefits pensions and health insurance that covered everything except mental disabilities (eg., senility). Even their eyeglasses and dental care were covered.

I am in my early 70s. My defined pension fund was converted to a 401K in the mid-1980s. After going through the dot-com bust, i restricted my spending to pump up that 401K. Then i was the first of the "redundants" to be laid off at the beginning of the Great Recession.

Dentists and eye doctors must vie with the auto repair shop for my dollars. I can't afford to take advantage of most senior discounts, and am grateful to one supermarket in my area for offering a discount once a month. Eating out, traveling overnight, and attending a theater or concert are things i haven't done since 2008. I love the movies offered by my public library. I happen to live surrounded by national parks and forests, so i do enjoy using my Golden Eagle Pass after a lifetime of paying the fees and extras to support our national treasures.

Why shouldn't the discount be based on ability to pay rather than age which has little or no bearing on the ability to pay. As a hypothetical: An over 65 type receives social security and a $50,000/yr retirement benefit. He pays less taxes, pays less for medical care per unit of service, and gets a senior discount, How is that fair as against a 30 yr old with a wife and 4 kids who works to make the same or less money, pays full taxes, including payroll and medicare taxes and doesn't get the discount?

Your suggestion makes good sense but I don't want to carry around a financial statement, do you?

I'm astounded by Ms. Eber's naive gesture of noblesse. If you're really 57 you might have learned by now that senior discounts have nothing to do with 'helping' anyone. They're a sensible, calculated attempt to secure your business and ensure customer loyalty, which is the mantra of every consumer business. They're still profiting from you, and no one is 'subsidizing' your discount. You might as well refuse to use a coupon, or for that matter your frequent flyer miles, out of concern that infrequent flyers are 'subsidizing' your free flight.
Take the discount and donate the difference to a food shelf.

As a retired senior on a fixed income. I do make use of the discounts offered to me. Some of you might be rich, however many of us are not. SS benefits were frozen for 2 years, yet, my electric rates, fuel (car and heating) groceries all increased. So now I shop at discount (a fancy name for dented) grocery stores, and have always clipped coupons. Taking advantage of a discount when eating out, going to a movie and the hotel room we stay in when visiting the national parks, is a way I along with many seniors can do these things.
Lori take your head out of the sand, talk to seniors who don't have 2401k's. Head out to the rural areas and see what low wages, people make in both the public and private sectors i.e. small town govt employees, rural teachers, cashiers, waitress's ask what they will be receiving in SS benefits or a pension if they have one.

We are being squeezed by property taxes, medicare, food and fuel costs. If you don't need the discount don't ask for it. Pay full price so we can receive ours. Taking a discount is one many of are proud of taking.

Thanks for your viewpoint. It's nice to see a robust exchange of ideas.

Senior discounts have been around for so long we sometimes forget why they started. In general, they were not created as a way to show appreciation to our elders. Rather seniors, many of whom had gone through the great depression, were very price sensitive. Economists realized you could extract additional revenue if you employed price discrimination, that is give them a discount. Same goes for students. Ironically, this can actually keep prices down for other patrons. But this has lasted for so long, we may have forgotten the reason we did this. So when seniors get the ultimate senior discount-- free entry with Golden Eagle Passes to National Parks which are chronically underfunded, that might be a bridge too far. Also since the current generation of seniors, the baby boomers, are the richest generation to ever live on earth, and not price sensitive like their parents, maybe savvy business will cancel the senior discount.


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