Source: flickr user andinavaez

When you turn 50 years old, chances are you'll receive an invitation in the mail to join AARP. While this may be an unwelcome reminder of the fact that you're getting older, there are plenty of reasons to pay that $16 membership fee and join. Here are five of the best benefits you can look forward to when you join the more than 37 million members of the largest retirement organization in the U.S. -- and you don't even need to be retired yet in order to enjoy them.

1. Free tax help
Many people don't know it, but the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the largest volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance service in the United States, with more than 35,000 volunteers serving 2.6 million taxpayers every year.

The AARP can help you file your taxes for free. Source: via flickr

There are over 5,000 different Tax-Aide sites throughout the country, and low- to middle-income taxpayers in need of assistance can simply bring their tax documents to the location closest to them. While the program is technically open to people of all ages, four out of five tax returns prepared by AARP volunteers are done for people age 60 or older.

2. A plethora of information
One of the best benefits of joining AARP is the vast amount of information available. The AARP Foundation provides useful information to assist members with

  • Estate planning
  • Housing and mobility concerns
  • Financial planning resources
  • A series of free webinars covering a variety of topics, such as Medicare, Social Security, and more
  • The AARP Auto Buying Program, designed to make choosing a car easier for seniors
  • A directory of volunteer opportunities for seniors

Though this technically isn't a "money saving" perk like a travel discount, the information you find through AARP could lead to big savings.

3. Travel discounts
Many senior citizens love to travel, and AARP offers a vast array of travel discounts. Members can receive discounts on rental cars, flights, train tickets, cruises, hotels, and more.

Source: wikipedia

For example, Starwood Hotels gives AARP members up to 15% off their regular rates, Norwegian Cruise Lines offers 5% off all cruises, and Grand European Travel offers $100 off any guided vacation, just to name a few. There are dozens of companies offering AARP member discounts, so check out the full list here.

Additionally, AARP offers its own online "travel center," which is provided through a partnership with Expedia. Through this website, members can get up to 25% off rental cars and an additional 10% off from AARP's hotel partners. There are also great last-minute deals, as well as discounts for booking a flight and hotel together.

4. Exclusive insurance and financial programs
Through partnerships with companies such as The Hartford, and New York Life, AARP offers its members insurance and financial products that aren't available to the general public.

These include discounted auto, home, life, and even small business insurance, as well as AARP dental and vision care plans. There is an AARP rewards credit card that provides some pretty impressive cash back benefits, such as 3% back at restaurants and gas stations and a $100 bonus after spending $500 on the card within three months.

5. Eating and shopping discounts
Seniors have more leisure time, and that tends to mean more time for shopping trips and eating out. Fortunately, AARP membership provides a variety of discounts for both.

According to AARP's website, there are about 50 different dining, entertainment, and shopping discounts available to members. For dining out, members can get discounts such as 15% off at Outback Steakhouse or Denny's, and 25% off menu prices at Papa John's. There are AARP discounts offered at Tanger Outlets, Family Dollar, and many more.

A great value
As I mentioned before, the cost to join AARP is just $16 per year, and that includes a membership for your spouse. Of course, the value you get out of it depends on how often you use these and other benefits, but I could make a case that any one of the benefits listed could easily be worth more than the membership fee. Even just one or two discounts at restaurants could save you more than $16, so joining AARP could be a wise financial decision for you and your family.