When to Say Last Rites Over Your Electronic Devices
When purchasing a new electronic device, we seldom think deeply about its EOL (end of life). This is unsurprising because we usually focus on how the device will make our life easier.
Over time, however, we must deal with the issue of when to discard the device. The question gains steam as the device ages because we’ve already made a financial and, for some, an emotional investment in it. (Didn’t we have a U.S. president who “loved” his Blackberry and didn’t want to give it up?)
Here are several guidelines that will provide clarity about when to replace your devices.
- It’s getting funky on me. When your device fails to perform the task(s) for which it was intended, it’s probably replacement time. Rare is the cost of repair worthy of the effort. And that presumes you can find a repair person who will fix it. Occasionally, sentimentality overrides common sense, so just be sure that you understand that reasoning is from the heart and not the head.
- Obsolescence. Sometimes your device simply doesn’t deliver what a newer model will. I know a journalist who switched to a different cell phone because he claims the newer model has the best telephoto lens, a frequent job requirement and a feature his current phone apparently lacks.
- The “hidden” life cycle. I’m referring to outdated software. It’s out of sight, though its effects are visible when operating your device. I started warning clients years ago — including accountants in this publication — that Microsoft would no longer support Windows 7. (Yes, some accountants are still on the system.) That day has arrived. Of course, you can get the support, but only if you’re willing to pay. The warning signal is simple. If the software company no longer supports the software on your device, I strongly urge you to consider an upgrade. I have discovered that if the software is performing as it should regardless of age, most accountants are unwilling to switch unless they know a peer who has a newer version that allows them to complete tasks with more efficiency. That’s when the light bulb goes off, and they suddenly consider “retiring” their current version.
- Give me the numbers. There is no perfect timeline for devices. Yet I get the question frequently, and here is my rule of thumb:
- Servers, networks, any infrastructure devices: five to seven years
- Laptops, desktops, tablets: three to five years
- Cell phones: every two years (True confession: I get a new one annually because I live off of it, but I don’t recommend following my practice.)
- My simple solution. There is an uncomplicated answer to a device’s life cycle: Buy the most extended warranty possible when purchasing it. You now have a fixed cost — the price of the item and any insurance costs. Then you no longer have to think about any expenses for the life of the warranty. I have a friend who also just did it. He purchased the longest warranty — four years — and every day the device works after the warranty expires is a plus. If it fails before the warranty expires, it’s fixed or replaced for free. If this happens after the expiration, he buys a new one.
- Business versus personal. Who pays for the device affects the life cycle. As a general rule, I would venture the opinion that if it’s a personal device, we tend to hold on to it longer. If the boss pays for it, you might decide to upgrade sooner. If the boss buys the device, the way to a quicker upgrade is to convince him or her that a newer device will save money, increase efficiency and produce faster results. Always give examples when making this pitch.
- Last rites. This is the end game that many forget. DON’T just toss your device into the garbage. Each product has a safe and environmentally sound way to dispose of it. Your product information should give you an option. Call2Recycle provides dropoff locations for batteries and cell phones, for example. You can also often donate to a nonprofit, such as the World Computer Exchange, or sell it on eBay for Charity.
This article appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.