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TheStreet Open House

The True Cost of an iPhone? Try $17,670

Hey -- did you hear about the $17,670 iPhone?

No, it's not a gold-plated version designed for Paris Hilton.

It's the one everybody's buying. The one in your local Apple (AAPL) store.

You may even have bought one ... without realizing it.

That's because, for most Americans, the true cost of Steve Jobs' latest "must-have" product isn't what's on the sticker. It's what they had to plunder from their retirement savings -- if any -- to pay for it.

Do the math ... if you can stand it.

A $599 iPhone comes with a minimum service plan of $60 a month for two years. Outlay: $2,039.

But if it's not a work expense, a customer in, say, the 25% tax bracket actually had to earn $2,720 to pay the bill.

Sound bad? It's even worse.

Take an iPhone customer who's 30 years old and is not maxing out contributions to his or her 401(k) retirement plan (few are).

In that case, the $2,720 could have been invested tax free. Earning a pretty reasonable 5.5% after inflation over the next 35 years, it would have grown to ... $17,670.

You read that right.

In short: That's how much this customer withdrew from retirement savings to pay for an iPhone.

And if he or she used a credit card and takes a year to pay off the debt, the true cost rises above $19,000.

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