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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The iPhone6 Reminds Me Of My Mom

This morning will certainly be abuzz about the launch of the new iPhone variant, iPhone6. I can see it now: scores of online posts debating on the new features (if any) or mere upgrades and refinements of existing ones, how exorbitant the prices will be, who will be getting it as soon as it hits the shelves, etc.

(From business the Apple website)

All I could think of was my mom.

In particular, a life lesson she would inculcate in me many, many years before anyone even heard of the word iPhone, as this occurred in my elementary school years.

I must have been at the 4th or 5th grade, or about to enter that level. As is customary, my mom would take me and my sister out to buy the school supplies needed. (I have to confess a certain, er, predisposition to wrapping my new textbooks in plastic. As Jessica Zafra once wrote, there seems to be a secret society of book wrappers. Count me in.)

I noticed that we skipped one "ritual" that year: that of buying a new pair of shoes. The scene that I remember most from the shoe department is the sight of a saleslady in blue, carrying a mike, barking out shoe sizes to a stockroom person, and the needed shoe would just fall out of a hole in the ceiling. I would giggle because it seemed like a scene straight out of a cartoon series: an irate lady, incessant shouting, shoes falling from the sky.

My pout must have been too obvious since my mom called me out on it even before we walked out of the department store.

"Ba't ganyan mukha mo?" She asked. (Why is your face contorted that way?)

I muttered, and she asked me to speak up. "Why didn't we buy new shoes?"

She stopped walking and turned to me, sensing this was going to take a little explaining: "Because you still don't need a new pair."

"But we always buy a new pair every school year."

"That's true. We did. But remember last year, when we bought a new pair that was a half size larger than you were used to? That was in anticipation of this year, when it would still fit you, even if your foot size grew."

" that why I was using extra thick socks last year?"

She smiled. "Yes. That way, you won't be too bothered with a shoe that was slightly larger than what you'd usually get. Besides, your shoe is still in good condition, right?"

I looked down while I said my next statement: "But everyone will be in new shoes...and they'll know I didn't buy new ones."

"If they're the kind of friends who think you are worth less just because you don't have new shoes, then you need new friends. Why, when I was in school, Angkong (Grandpa) would ask me to have the same shoe from my older sister repaired. And by then, I was getting it from two older sisters. You're lucky because at least it's still your own shoe."

I remember thinking what a cheapskate my mom was at that time, but over the years, she would instill this lesson in us again and again: in the bags we used, our trusty Isuzu Gemini which we had for 15 years (my mom sold it to a car collector who was floored by how well maintained it was after all that time), or the clothes we had.

You could say that my active dislike of anything trendy or labeled Right Now has its roots in what my mom taught me early on: differentiating between a need and a want. And that if something can still be used, there's no sense throwing it away, just because a newer version has come along.

Fast forward to today, and I know for certain that there will be people discarding their iPhone 5's for no other reason than "there's a new version out." I actually got to talk to one of them, and the justification he gave me (at that time, he was moving from iPhone 4 to 5) was that "I'm selling my old one, anyway, so it's not like I'm paying full price for the new model. In a way, I'm being smart about it, having someone subsidize my new phone."

"I suppose you can think of it that way," I said. "But, you can't sell it at the same price you bought it, it will be way lower since the new model is out, and since the new model has supposedly better features, it will be more expensive than the last iteration. So, you'd be shelling out more and more money out as each new variant comes."

"Ano bang paki no? Eh, pera ko naman to!" (What do you care? It's my money!)

"Don't get me wrong, I know it's your money to burn. But I can't help but see the discrepancy in your financial goals, when you have indicated to me that you don't have too much money in your savings for emergencies and rainy days, but you seem to have ready cash to spend once a new iPhone is out."

"You're only young once, so live it like it's your last, right?"

He will undoubtedly be one of those lining up for the iPhone6. And I also have no doubt that his savings account has not increased by much. How can it take off, when every year, like clockwork, a tech company is getting his funds, an amount that could ensure a comfortable emergency fund and even an excellent start to a good retirement account, if only he began saving these amounts since the iPhone first came out?

At an average of at least 40k per model, that's a total of 200k for 5 models. Even if you were able to sell these older models at half the price, that would still mean a missed opportunity of saving at least 100k.

And for something you don't really need. Which is in contrast to an emergency fund. Or a fund for health concerns. Or protecting your family, with kids aged 7, 5 and 3. Any parent who would deem getting a new phone more imperative than ensuring their family's financial well being should have their parental privileges - yes, parenthood is a privilege - revoked.

As Tim Cook entices the Philippine market to give out 40k once again for their company's newest darling, I would like to give a shout out to my mom, who gave me a lesson that can only be described as priceless.


  1. "If they're the kind of friends who think you are worth less just because you don't have new shoes, then you need new friends."

    That line: SO. MUCH. WIN! Your mom is definitely one of the best in the world. ;)

  2. I also feel bad for that guy that's why financial literacy should be a compulsory subject in every school/univ.