How phone upgrades could cost you your retirement - PhoneArena

How phone upgrades could cost you your retirement

Upgrading your phone could cost you your retirement
Every year, without fail, the biggest names in the smartphone world come up with a newer, shinier, more powerful flagship than the last, sending hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the nearest Apple or Samsung store (or their computer, more likely) for a customary annual upgrade.

Having the latest and greatest of phone tech is something for which many of us are ready to dish out a solid wad of cash. After all, the price of the iPhone 13 starts at $799—not all that much, if you ask many people. Just a portion of next month's salary, is all.

However, that $800 (or $1000+ depending on which flagship you go for) may have a much bigger impact on many people's long-term future than they realize. Especially those of average Americans, of whom less than a quarter possess enough savings to last them three months in the case of unemployment, as Pew Research Center finds.

Think about that for a moment. If you don't have enough money to survive for three months should you fall on hard times, should you really be splurging on a phone that costs over half a month's minimum wage at this time?

Every one in five people believes that a new phone is worth going into debt for

A startling survey result by WalletHub reveals that about one fifth of all participants claimed they would be willing to go into debt, only for the sake of getting their hands on their favorite phone brand's newest flagship. Most people are already in debt as college students, and it often takes them decades to get out of it—so maybe debt just doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore.

But it may be well to seriously consider the numbers as to what such an investment could actually mean for most people.

Tim Cook once said that buying the newest iPhone is cheaper than buying a cup of coffee for a year at "at one of these nice coffee places," making it sound as affordable as it gets. On top of that, Cook said, you save a few hundred by trading in your current phone, as long as it still works.

However, financial advisers would beg to differ.

$1,000 now could cost you $25,000 thirty years from now

Many people consider themselves too young to seriously think about investing into a retirement account, until it's suddenly too late. However, a simple $12 a month deposited into a retirement account with an annual rate of return of ten percent, the New York Times calculates, would grow into $25,161 over a period of 30 years. Now, that's a serious sum to consider.

Tim Cook's analogy is a fallacy

And Tim Cook's appealing coffee analogy may be more misleading than it sounds. It assumes that you spend the average price of $3 per coffee (the non-fancy kind) every day, which many people do.

But of course, homemade coffee is both better and cheaper, and requires very little effort to make. For $16, you can get a bag of beans at Costco which could eke out 41 cups of coffee at thirty-nine cents each, estimates the New York Times. With that in mind, a high-end $1,000 iPhone today will cost you 2,500 cups of coffee, or nearly 7 years of your daily caffeine fix. 

Now that puts things into a slightly different perspective.

And if you charge that iPhone to a credit card, it could turn into a $3,000 investment with the accumulated interest by the time you pay it off—we won't even try to calculate that in coffee.

We aren't all in the same boat, however

Needless to say, these numbers and cautionary tales apply to most of us average consumers, who may need to make certain sacrifices—however small they may be—in order to meet our long-term financial goals and priorities. For some it may be real estate, for others travelling and starting a family, and for all of us it includes retirement savings.

Those who already earn enough to have no concerns over meeting their lifelong financial goals, with secured housing and retirement funds, don't necessarily need to think twice about making a $1000 annual splurge on a bit of material happiness. Yet that's a fairly miniscule part of the smartphone consumer market, and it isn't the case for most of us.

It's good to have fun, but also to be aware and prioritize

Of course, it's extremely important to invest in yourself. After all, what are you hustling for day and night, if not to enjoy the fruits of your labor at some point or another? 

Most of us already do that, however: be it for the occasional $10 fancy latte, or other constant luxuries (big or small) that we tend to reward ourselves with after a successful day, or comfort ourselves with when we're down. And if we really think about it, an annual smartphone upgrade for rather miniscule improvements in performance may fall a little on the excess side.

Do you actually get that much benefit from upgrading?

On top of everything, flagship handsets don't get exponentially better year after year. And as smartphone technology has already reached impressive heights, upgrading from last year's to this year's iPhone or Galaxy flagship may yield a smaller return than the price we end up paying or it. 

Douglas Boneparth, founder and president at Bone Fide Wealth, falls into the category of wealthy individuals for whom an annual iPhone upgrade is something fairly trivial. And he told the New York Times that while his yearly iPhone purchase had become "a sort of hobby," he was noticing that the technology was barely improving some years to warrant upgrading. 

“The 13 is the first one where I’m like, 'This one literally only has a better camera,' " shared Boneparth.

Live in the moment, but prioritize

It's certainly great to live in the moment, to have fun, and to enjoy the latest of what modern technology has to offer. Yet we also must remember that there will always be something better than what we've got, a slightly better camera, slightly larger screen real estate; somewhere the grass will always be a little greener.

And it's our responsibility to evaluate just how much having those extra few megapixels, or that slightly better screen or processor power, is really worth sacrificing other worthy investments for. Maybe upgrading our smartphone every couple of years or more wouldn't hurt so much after all.

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