Growing up, my siblings and I were transported to and fro in the velour-covered confines of a wood-paneled Buick wagon. Throughout my childhood, we had 5 of them in differing shades of blue, with one brown example thrown in the mix when my dad made a decision without my mom’s input (which was always blue, if that wasn’t clear). You would think these family haulers blessed us with comfort and luck, but you’d be surprised (or not) to know that they left us stranded more times than I can recall. So, why did my parents keep buying them? Because: blind brand loyalty.
Prior to the golden age of the internet, most of our research came via word of mouth. We asked our friends, family, neighbors and milkman for their input, and it likely ended there. Often, we leveraged our own family experience with a specific brand to determine our choices. Many folks within the Baby Boomer, Gen X and even older echelon of Millennials will probably recall vividly the brand loyalty our families typically had. We were Ford families or GM families; Tide families or Ajax families. I could go on, but you get the point: our research mostly ended at the loyalty our family already had. And so, wood-paneled Buicks for life. Or, at least until the early 90’s.
By my own middle school days, my parents had grown weary of being left on the side of the road and the subtle art of not flooding an engine. In the mid 90’s, product research had evolved in the Foran household. We had…dial up! My dad still relied on input from coworkers and friends, but for the first time, this was cross referenced with diligent, but slow, internet research. He leveraged articles, consumer reports, and even chat rooms (can you imagine?) to finally break the chain of wagons and begin what would be a very long stretch of Honda minivans.
These days, like a lot of other Millennials, I find myself making most of my decisions based upon a variety of sources, most of them digital. Like my dad back in 1996, I rely on the knowledge of the internet – heavily. I read reviews, I ask questions in real time, I’ve even polled my followers on social platforms when I just need someone to take the wheel for me. But there are some decisions that can’t be weighed simply using digital avenues. When it comes to decisions like finance, home buying, or other big life decisions, those queries start with these key words: “Hi Dad, it’s me again…”
Even growing up in the age of the internet, and being true digital natives, older generations (i.e. Mom and Dad) are still represent our primary beacons of financial knowledge. “According to a 2017 Instamotor survey, 78.5 percent of U.S. millennials say their parents have given them financial advice, and more than half feel their parents prepared them well to make good financial decisions.” And why wouldn’t they be? Unlike strangers on the internet or anonymous reviews, we are certain that our parents have 2 things: experience and our best interest at heart.
Older generations have been the experience – they’ve bought homes, saved for retirement, and raised families. While 2019 is different than say, 1985, the basic tenets of these processes still exist and we should be leveraging experience. The internet is great, but first-hand knowledge is undeniable. I ask the internet for a LOT of advice. Sometimes it’s great – it most recently helped me choose my new car. But, sometimes it’s terrible, like when it told me my cold symptoms were probably a life-threatening tropical disease and set off a flurry of panic.
When it comes to child-to-parent conversations, Instamotor discovered that “The most popular subject was saving, with 72 percent discussing it with their parents, followed by budgeting at 59 percent.”
Like the internet, we may not always agree with the information or advice that our parent give us. I would say the take-it-or-leave-it ratio with my own parents is about 50:50. But, I still ask, and I always will. Life’s big decisions – those absolutely life changing decisions – are best reserved for research that doesn’t begin and end at self-service and internet research. We owe it to ourselves to speak to those that have been through it.