When most of us think of Torino, the location of this year's Olympics, we probably don't think of Italy's Alpine mountains, the Po river's source, or the picturesque lakes. We probably give no thought to its Romanesque-Gothic architecture, its Royal Armory, its Egyptian Museum, or the Sabauda Gallery. Instead, we probably think of . the Shroud of Turin.

The famous shroud is a piece of linen that bears the image of a man's face. What makes it so interesting is that it's so old -- at least several centuries, most likely -- and that many people believe the face belongs to the crucified Jesus Christ. Scientists and others have been studying and debating the cloth for a long time. Perhaps we investors should spend a little time thinking about it, too.

A retirement for the ages
Permit me now to shift gears for a few minutes. Fear not -- I'll soon return to Turin.

If you're like many people, you don't spend much time thinking about and planning for your retirement. That's a shame, because it's one thing you actually have a good bit of control over. You may not be able to whisk yourself up your corporate ladder at will, and you may not be able to improve the health of an ailing loved one, but you can choose right now to have a better retirement than you'd otherwise have.

Think about the shroud. What's so amazing about it to me is that while the man himself died so long ago, we can still see him, and he still makes an impression on us as much as he did on the cloth. He left a legacy. We can be like that, too. There are plenty of ways that you might build a lasting legacy in retirement.

Make your great-grandchildren rich
For starters, save and invest money not only for your own golden years, but also for the golden years of your grandchildren and other descendants or loved ones. Remember that one of the most important factors in the growth of wealth is time. If your money grows at a paltry 3% per year (the stock market's long-term average return is around 10%), you can still turn $100,000 into $37 million ... in 200 years.

Your children might be grown, with only 20 years until they retire. If you leave them money when you die, it may remain invested for only 10 to 20 years. But if you leave money for your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, you can arrange it so that the funds remain invested and growing for a very long time. Consider that $100,000 growing at 10% per year for 50 years becomes $11 million dollars. If your grandchildren are 3 years old and you establish a little nest egg for them to access when they're 63, it could become $30 million by that time. Over 100 years, $100,000 will grow to more than $1.3 billion, at 10% per year. Imagine how pleased you'd be with your great-grandmother, if you learned that she socked away some money for you 75 years ago!

Some creative estate planning can work other wonders, too, such as leaving part of your current fortune to a favored charity. Even without having or giving away much money, you can still give a lot of your heart to causes you believe in. Do so with gusto for a long time, and you might find, for example, that the children's playroom at your local hospital ends up being named for you. You might enjoy having your name on a plaque more than your face on a cloth.

Get cracking on that retirement plan
Of course, all of these wonderful things won't happen on their own. They need you to get the ball rolling. So let us help you. Take advantage now of a free trial of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter. Readable in a single sitting, it arrives in your mailbox each month, chock-full of practical advice, investment suggestions, and inspiring profiles of people who've retired early and/or successfully, telling us how they did it.

In a recent issue, Robert Brokamp, who heads up the newsletter, interviewed finance professor Jeremy Siegel, who has studied which companies performed best over the past 50 years. Some top performers: Standard Oil [now ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)], National Dairy Products [now Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT)], R.J. Reynolds Tobacco [now Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI)], and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). If you had invested $4,000 in these companies in 1950 and reinvested dividends, your investment would have grown to $6.29 million. (The average stock in that time period would have grown to just $1.1 million.) In another issue, Robert explained why we may want to plan on withdrawing 4% from our nest eggs each year, in retirement, if we want to make the money last. Which companies will grow briskly over the next 50 years? Well, maybe Avon (NYSE:AVP), maybe Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), maybe Dell (NASDAQ:DELL). Rule Your Retirement often offers recommended investments from experts -- try it and see.

I n sum
It's all up to you. Ignore your retirement and take your chances, or plan carefully for an extra-comfy retirement and a chance to leave a lasting legacy -- perhaps one that people will admire centuries from now.

(Hey -- consider forwarding this article to anyone whose retirement you care about. Just click on the "Email this Page" link near the bottom of the page.)

Kraft is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation, Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick, and Dell is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. We have newsletters for all kinds of investing styles -- check out the members of our newsletter family, and treat yourself to a free, 30-day trial of whatever suits you best.

Selena Maranjian owns shares of Coca-Cola. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.