I suspect there is no tougher audience to write for than the Aged. Just so every month, the AARP Bulletin tailors itself to fit elderly eyes. Their effort demands finely focused journalism. Every sentence is pared into relevancy. Nothing gets dumbed-down or doctored-up.
Even better, the AARP Bulletin gives clean prose on deliberately muddied subjects: Medicare, Social Security, and Health. I understand all these topics better because of their honed writing. But the AARP Bulletin isn’t unbiased. It is pointedly in favor of Social Security and Medicare because their readership is pointedly in favor of those same programs. And boy old boy, do AARP members howl in force should there be any hint of wobbling on these issues from above.
All of which of course creates a hole to be filled. The same sort of hole filled by both the Conservapedia, “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia” and “Fair and Balanced” Fox News. Yes indeed, there really is a “Better for you. Better for America” Conservative AARP. An organization that serves those seniors in favor of saving Social Security and Medicare by privatizing them out of existence. I suppose there is a senior-sucker born every minute, but let’s call “enough is enough” on that nonsense. And instead, let’s get back to the real world of pressing senior needs and the AARP that presses forward for all seniors. What follows are some examples of the AARP Bulletin’s most stellar recent work.
In November of 2011 the AARP Bulletin ran a Special Report: Myths and Truths About Social Security. It’s a classic. So good, I gave it a dedicated bookmark. This tidbit from it is stunning:
Myth No. 1: Social Security is going bankrupt. No, it’s not. Even in the unlikely event that nothing changes and the program’s entire surplus runs out in 2036, as projected, checks would keep coming. Payroll taxes at current rates would cover 77 percent of all the future benefits promised. That’s true for young and old alike, and includes inflation adjustments.
Another must read, Retirement: Three Big Questions, begins with a killer story:
At the peak of the 2008 market meltdown, Mark Wilson got one of those calls every financial planner dreads. On the line was a sobbing 65-year-old retiree, begging him to sell all her investments — stocks, bonds, everything. She was convinced she was going to lose her retirement savings and wind up destitute. Wilson had been receiving a lot of calls like this.
Wilson, a vice president at a financial planning firm in Newport Beach, California, always tried to reassure his clients that things would get better. But the truth was, he really didn’t know. Nobody did in those panic-stricken days. Still, he told the woman that selling everything would be a huge mistake and he wouldn’t help: If she wanted to be foolish, she’d have to go it alone.
They argued, and when Wilson hung up, his secretary dashed into his office. “Oh, my God — that was horrible,” she said.
“You don’t know the half of it,” he replied. “That was my mother.”
And lastly, the March 2012 issue opens with the editorial How About Some Adult Supervision? It is delicious, and takes a dig at what I’ve come to call the militiary-industrial entitlement culture. Check out this incredibly enlightening passage:
Consider how the job and corporate landscape has changed. Fifty years ago, when manufacturing dominated the economy, the five largest private employers were General Motors, AT&T, Ford, GE and U.S. Steel. Today, when service providers, sales and temporary staffing firms generate six of every seven jobs, the largest private employers are Wal-Mart, Kelly, IBM, UPS and McDonald’s. The typical GM worker makes about $20 an hour more than a Wal-Mart worker plus benefits. This trend makes it even harder to sustain the nation’s global competitiveness and the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
This is where adult supervision comes in. Adults worry about their kids, the schools they attend and the education they get. As a nation, we’re failing, even though our federal and state governments spend $519 billion a year on elementary and high school education. As a percentage of public spending, that total has dropped three straight years.
At the same time, we don’t hesitate to spend nearly $1 trillion on the nation’s defense. Here’s a thought. The Pentagon is buying 2,443 F-35 joint strike fighters, sleek, $133 million supersonic jets for battling a weapon that hasn’t been imagined by an enemy that remains unknown. If we bought just seven fewer F-35s, we could buy a handheld computer tablet for every first-grader in America.
No I don’t think every first-grader needs a handheld. But that’s not his point per se. The point is the hidden idea of scale. The difference between a million dollars, a billion dollars, and a military entitlement culture that spends 1 trillion. I’ll have more about scale (and thinking in scale) in a upcoming post.
Side note: In contradistinction to their mailed newsletter, the online version of the AARP Bulletin is gummed up with link plaque and advertising tangles. It is ugly and skews towards unreadable. Nevertheless you can still see why I rave about the purity of this monthly mag from the above links and samples. So here’s a suggestion: Become an AARP member. You don’t have to be 55+, and you’ll get the monthly AARP Bulletin in your mail box. Then read it cover to cover.