Let's start with a couple of facts. First, according to the 2000 census, the median age of the typical U.S citizen is 35.3 years. Second, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age at which the typical U.S. worker retires declined during the 1990s, falling to roughly 62 between 1995 and 2000.

Put those points together and what have we got? Approximately 27 years to prepare for retirement, on average.

Seems like such a long time
But it really isn't a long time -- at least not if you fail to avail yourself of what Einstein once purportedly called "the miracle of compound interest." To wit: If you plunk down $10,000 and it returns an annualized rate of 10% for 27 years, your initial investment will grow to more than $130,000 by the time you enter your golden years.

Wait, however, and your fortune could turn out to be misfortune. Ten years at 10% will lead to just $25,937; a five-year savings "plan" will result in just $16,105.

The upshot, then, is this: Time really is money.

Prepare now for the future
An initial 10 grand won't get the job done, of course; it'll take many years of ongoing intelligent investing to get you where you want to be.

You might, for instance, consider setting up Drips -- dividend reinvestment plans -- with companies like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), or General Electric (NYSE:GE), then have the income those firms throw off automatically reinvested in additional shares for you.

Alternatively, you might go shopping for high-quality companies whose shares are currently unloved. Just now, in fact, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY), and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) are trading more than 20% below their respective 52-week highs despite long track records of delivering the goods for shareholders.

Still, as important as investing is, it isn't the only piece of the retirement puzzle, and my colleague Robert Brokamp's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service is where the big picture comes together. Each monthly edition of Rule Your Retirement is jam-packed with news and commentary you can use on hot topics like asset allocation, portfolio draw-down rates, inflation fighting, and, yes, investing, too.

The Foolish bottom line
If you've weeks, months, or more than 27 years until retirement, the time to plan is now. If it's not a 2006 resolution, make it one. Put the miracle of compound interest to work for you.

And if you're looking for big-picture advice, try out Robert's Rule Your Retirement service. I'm a big fan, and I suspect you'll love it, too. You can even love it for free for 30 days. In addition to the current edition of the newsletter, your risk-free trial provides access to all back issues as well as the service's retirement planning tools and world-class discussion boards.

Ready? OK. Click here to begin ruling your retirement.

Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service. He doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value recommendation. Bank of America is an Income Investor recommendation. Dell, Electronic Arts, and Bed Bath & Beyond are Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool'sdisclosure policy sponsored this message.