Age has its prerogatives.
One of the most profitable is saving money. Since turning 55, I have saved more than $27,000 taking advantage of senior citizen discounts and special pricing for seniors. That's an average of about $1,400 a year.
How did I do this? Ah, that's the best part: All I do is ask.
Curiously, I was introduced to the discount quite accidentally 20 years ago. My wife and I stopped at a restaurant in Cortland, N.Y.
When we checked our bill, we found it was lower than the posted menu prices. We finally figured out that we were given the 10 percent senior discount, even though I didn't ask. After all, I was only 54 at the time, and senior discounts were the furthest thing from my mind.
At first I was insulted, because our server obviously thought I was older, but then I thought to myself, ``Hey, wait a minute: I just saved $1.40. Who cares if she thought I was 55?"
I quickly found out, however, that the volunteerism displayed by our server in Cortland was the exception, not the rule. To get the discount, you usually must ask, although I have to say the older I get the more often I get the discount automatically. Of course, the hat I wear helps, too. It says, ``Don't Forget My Senior Discount!"
When I turned 55, I was on high alert for any specials. Some discounts kick in at 55, others at 60, still others at 62, and there are even some which don't apply until age 65.
One of the best deals going is a lifetime pass to national parks and other national areas from the federal government for a one-time cost of $10. To qualify, you must be 65. Of course, it doesn't much matter these days with the government shutdown.
McDonald's has what's called a ``senior coffee," - which costs 69 cents, compared to the regular price of $1, and refills are free. That price, by the way, varies from place to place. The cheapest I found was at a McDonald's in Anderson, S.C., (39 cents). Other fast-food places have senior discounts, too.
Most banks offer seniors special savings on checking accounts. Some airlines have deals for seniors, although they are not as lucrative as they were immediately after 9/11. I've also gotten $500 senior discounts twice when buying new cars.
It is amazing at how quickly the savings add up. For example, I have breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts, many of which offer a 10 percent discount to seniors. I estimate that I save $60 a year on this discount alone.
Some supermarkets offer us seniors 5 percent discounts on a certain day of the week - Weis Markets' senior day is Wednesday, for example.
I have asked some friends why they don't ask for the discount. Some have said they ``feel funny about asking"; some have said they don't want people to know they are senior citizens.
Ah, vanity has its price!
There are numerous Web sites which will pinpoint businesses with senior discount offers. One of the best I found is seniordiscounts.com. You can type in the name of your community or ZIP code, and you will get an extensive list of participating businesses.
So, go ahead, don't be bashful: Act your age, and start saving.
(Bruce Frassinelli, a 1957 graduate of Summit Hill High School, is an adjunct instructor at Lehigh Carbon Community College and lives in Schnecksville.)