Thursday, June 21, 2007

Retirement Planning and Calendars

Retirement Planning and Calendars

I began the discussion in section one of the book with calendars. Let's face it, time is what we are most focused on when it comes to retirement planning. While the book focuses on how we can make the best use of time and how to offset many of the problems along the way - each of which seems to act as a subtracting force - we often ignore the importance of our linear march to the end.

Time is a powerful, almost spiritual force that early peoples believed was better left to the priests. While I mention the earliest calendars in the book, the real breakthrough work was not being done in Europe or Egypt but here in the Americas.

Using the regularity of Venus, Mesoamerican Indians had calculated the rather regular movements of this planet.

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This planet moves in a regular pattern. It spends 263 days in the morning sky, disappears for 50 days behind the sun and then spends 263 days as fixture on the evening horizon. But to these ancient Mayans, this was not enough. In fact, they developed a much more complex calendar of which Venetian observances became only one of three measures of time.

They also used a calendar that tracked a solar year much the way we do now and something called a Long Count, which meshed the other two calendars into one.

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The Long Count calendar gave these early time keepers the ability to extend beyond the boundaries of secular and solar timekeeping where every day in a 52 year period had an exact and distinct name. According to Charles C. Mann, author of 1491, early peoples took their birth date as their name.

A Long Count calendar was important for numerous reasons. It gave coherence to the other two measures of time. And even more importantly, it gave them the ability to extend their thinking into the future.

How far? They were able to set a beginning date - somewhere around mid-August 3114 B.C. and an ending date 23 billion plus years into the future.

Because our retirement plans are based on a much shorter time period - our work years, we are left with a sense of urgency to accomplish great things in a relatively short period.

When we begin our saving for retirement later than we like, we are often left with feelings of guilt and apprehension. I hope to fix some of those problems. Not all of them, just the issues pertaining to your money.

When we begin early, we are often sidetracked as life begins its relentless quest for our attention and money.

Time is our foil. Perhaps we can fix that and turn this steady march into a more rewarding journey.