We’re getting empty-nest practice. 

Noelle is at summer camp for three weeks and Maddie is doing a paid gig in A Chorus Line until the end of the month. They don’t need us. 

Tara and I spent the week at our cabin, sans kids, plus dogs. We worked full schedules but Zoom meetings on the riverbank with the sound of rushing water in the background takes the edge off. It’s also a great spot to do quality head work, without someone asking you every ten minutes if you’ve seen their phone.

I’m feeling nostalgic – sad even – as we hurtle closer to shipping Maddie off to Michigan in a month. Noelle still has three years at home. Those will disappear in a blink. Our little gang of four will never exactly be the same.  

I know we’ll morph into new family dynamics, holidays, vacations, maybe the occasional boomerang tenant, then grandkids. But this decade-and-a-half era is ending.

I’m forever grateful for the extra time COVID gave us with our kids, at the very age when they would typically drift away. Sure, it sucks how it disrupted their high school experience, proms, underage drinking, and such. 

That’s their problem. This is all about me. And I loved it.

Maybe the intensity and closeness of quarantine is making the transition harder. The impending withdrawal.

At the same time, I’m feeling relieved. Raising kids has been the greatest joy of my life. But holy shit is it exhausting. Being the kind of parent you need to be – that society expects you to be – takes every ounce of mental and physical energy you can muster. 

We knew from first-hand experience that we couldn’t just tie latchkeys around their necks. We couldn’t smoke cigarettes in the car with the windows up or pump them full of microwaved TV dinners four nights a week. Oh, the sacrifices.

Then there were the two million miles of chauffeuring. The endless forms. The doctor’s appointments. The four-hour banquets. And the sub-five-hour nights’ sleep it often took to pull it off. I know we’re supposed to relish it. But let’s be real.

I’ve told you many times how bullish I am on Gen Z. They’re the best of all of us. And they’ll save the world. 

But only because we made them that way.

So, my melancholy is fading into a sense of accomplishment and excitement for our next chapter. Because a couple decades like this week sounds pretty awesome too.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

I don’t want to jinx it, but maybe, just maybe, the consumer confidence worm is finally turning. Our Economic Sentiment Index had its first back-to-back positive reading since way back when Elon Musk was still likeable. The latest jump was particularly lofty. Even with big tech jumping the shark with hiring freezes and layoffs, people feel good about the job market. Gas prices have been steadily shrinking and there’s a sense that inflation has finally plateaued (ignore the latest CPI numbers and their one-month lag). Let’s keep it up.

Speaking of Elon Musk, it’s been a rough couple months for his image:

Americans are increasingly reluctant to fly. Yes, air travel has skyrocketed this summer, but so have ticket prices, delays, and cancellations – all of which are beginning to take a toll. Thirty-nine percent of U.S. adults say they’re less likely to fly in the coming months due to cost (we just decided to drive to Minnesota to visit Tara’s family, rather than shell out $2,800 to Delta) and 29% are deterred by fear of flight disruptions (I drove the 4.5 hours to Cincinnati for a business trip last week to avoid the risk). In related news, two-thirds of Americans are choosing to visit a familiar place for their vacation, rather than somewhere new. Visiting family or friends is the number one reason. One way or another, one place or another, I hope you’re doing some awesome vacationing this summer. 

An ad-supported tier may not be a silver bullet for Netflix. You’ll find all kinds of interesting nuggets in this study, but a few notable things stood out for me. First, is that a lower-cost, ad-enabled offering may cannibalize many more current ad-free subscribers than non-subscribers it attracts. That might be okay if it staves off churn. Second, is that interest in an ad-supported plan has waned by a statistically significant margin since it was more hypothetical at the beginning of the year. Naturally, the different segments of likely new subscribers and plan-switchers vary widely demographically, regionally, and otherwise. But I’m only going to tell you about that if you ask.       

Nearly half of Prime Day shoppers ran into supply issues. One-third of U.S. adults reported shopping during Amazon’s two-day event last week, with about half of those making impulse buys – while 70% bought items they pre-ordained (like I told you would happen last week). Incidentally, Gen Z shoppers were way more likely to buy something unexpected. Amazon reported that the top-selling items were in the home tech category, things like smart TVs and home security (which we also told you before it happened). In a sign of the times, 48% of Prime Day shoppers encountered one or more products that were out of stock. Supply chain, man…

5G, oat milk, and telehealth continue to lead the pack of growing trends. Our latest Trend Adoption report dropped this week and it continues to be chock-full of insight (at least about the fraction of categories we give away for free). Most areas of in-home tech saw an uptick in Q2 (aligning with the Prime Day findings above). Oat milk is officially beyond the “emerging” stage and into a certifiable mainstay alternative. At the other end of the spectrum, fintech trends took a big hit, with crypto adoption falling for the first time in a long time. Also of note is the decline of VR, which can’t seem to get out of first gear. Anyway, our team did a much better job of analysis than I can do. Read for yourself.

A few more studies from the CivicScientists:

  • 1 out of 3 Americans have purchased or plan to purchase a car online and intent to buy a used car has reached an all-time high (at least since we started tracking it); 
  • Hoka brand shoes are all the rage, reminding me how little I know about fashion;
  • People with tattoos are more likely to smoke, also more likely to exercise every day, and other interesting factoids about our painted friends.

Some awesome popular questions this week:   

Answer Key: No, I prefer to be accountable; Yes, Generations by Neil Howe & Bill Strauss; I’ve never even tried; Absolutely; Only by accident; Working on it.  

Hoping you’re well.


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