Today’s post is from GCP Dad Darrell Williams, Chicagoan and father of a 21-year-old son. Darrell has had a long career in the financial services industry, and currently works at a leading investment firm.

Raise your hand if you know what a Nik•Nik is.

Anyone? Not even you seriously old school brothers and sisters?

A Nik•Nik is a shirt. A very popular shirt in the mid-1970s. Nik•Niks were so popular that some brothers were willing to give up a body part to acquire a couple of these sartorial masterpieces, and the true “ballers” of the of the era had several. As you can see in this link, Nik•Niks are tight-fitting shirts of man-made material that came in a near infinite number of color and pattern combinations. Of course, this provided the near infinite opportunity for the Nik•Nik company to lighten the wallets of young men of every race to the tune of about $35.00 per shirt. Chump change you say? Perhaps for some. But my solid brown Nik•Nik shirt represented 15 hours of lugging office supplies for Stevens Maloney back in the day.

Everyone has a few Nik•Nik equivalents that they can find buried deep in that closet back at Mom’s house. For some it might be that Members Only jacket. For others it might be that Starter jacket or those Calvin Klein jeans. Perhaps it’s that FUBU gear, or those Phat Farm or Baby Phat jeans. They all have two things in common: today you wouldn’t wear them outside of a Halloween party even if they actually fit – which they don’t. And most importantly, today you would rather have the money you spent on all that gear back in your pocket.

That $35.00 I worked so hard to scrape together to acquire my Nik•Nik shirt would be $752 today if I had left the shirt in the store and bought and held the S&P500 index instead. Would I trade my Nik•Nik shirt today for $752 dollars? Of course I would. I look back on that teenager who worked so hard to acquire that shirt and wish someone had pulled him aside and told him that he wouldn’t give a damn about that shirt two years after he bought it. I wish someone had told him that he could improve his future life by investing rather than by spending.

To be fair, my parents actively discouraged me from buying my Nik•Nik shirt at the time. While they didn’t walk me through the power of investing, they did assure me that buying the shirt was not the best use of my earnings. I heard them, but it was my hard earned money, and I just had to have that fly brown Nik•Nik shirt. Now that I am older, arguably wiser, and in the position to watch history repeat itself, I am determined to try to get the message about why and how to save money across to my son and his peers.

Until our kids actually start paying serious bills, they are not inclined to spend time thinking about how these bills get paid, or focusing on how to get and hold onto money. But we parents need to talk to our children early and often about the power of saving, investing and the magic of compound interest. They need to hear it not just from us, but from other trusted adults as well, since our kids are often much more likely to pay attention to this type of advice from them– possibly by several orders of magnitude. And as I know firsthand, they are not always inclined to take this advice from their parents.

So please talk to your sons and daughters about what happens if they take the two hundred dollars (or more) they are asking you to use to buy them the latest sneaker, outfit, or other fashion item and invest that money instead. As importantly, ask your brothers, sisters, friends, cousins, any and everyone close to your children to talk to them about the value of saving money over time. Ask them to tell your sons that spending $295 on a pair of skinny, low-rise jeans could take about $5,800 out of the pocket of their 65-year old selves. That’s what you have if that $295 is invested at a 7.0% compounded return. Ask them to ask your son if he would rather have a pair of pricey high fashion jeans right now, or as much as $5,800 at the time he’s ready to retire. Tell him what the 65-year-old him will think of the 21-year-old him if he spends his money on the fashion of the moment. (If you are talking to a teenager, adjust the math accordingly, and the numbers will be even higher.)

Tell your friends to tell your son that these are critical life lessons that will put and keep money in his pocket for the rest of his life. Tell him he is a terrific young man regardless of the label on his shirt or the cut of his jeans. (And while they are at it, they can tell him to pull those jeans up and keep them up.)

I certainly plan to talk to my son and his friends about the power of investing. I may not have been able to resist blowing money on the fashion must have of the moment, but I hope I can save some young brothers (and maybe my own son) from making the same mistake.