Changing Our Calendar Could Save Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

At least according to Richard Conn Henry it could. Our current Gregorian calendar has been widely adopted and in use since the 1500′s, so why change it? He goes on to argue about the time that is lost due to the annual need to change schedules (he is a Professor) and date information on course materials.

The cost of this to the economy, from loss of my services in more worthwhile endeavors, is about $500 a year. Multiply that by 200 professors and you get $100,000 a year. Multiply that by 1,000 schools and colleges around the world and you get $100 million per year lost.

So, by extrapolating his income and the time it takes to revise his schedule he finds a loss of $100 million across the world simply because our calendar is constantly changing. That is certainly interesting, and I wonder how in real-world terms it would have an effect. So if it takes Henry a day or two to revise his schedule, what would he do during those times instead to make up for the money that was “lost”?

On the larger scale of business he makes another argument for the money and time lost due to changing schedules:

All businesses and institutions lose productive time this way. Think of the rescheduling involved in professional sports. The total cost of this inefficiency to the economy may be small in percentage terms, but it is enormous in absolute terms.

I begin to see some of the benefits that could come from a standardized calendar. The professional sports (not to mention high-school, college and amateur sports) analogy does make sense. This is big business and scheduling is at the root of creating a successful spectator experience. Being aware of holidays, travel constraints, potential TV ratings and much more is all required in producing an optimal schedule that generates the most revenue.

When it comes to business in general you have a lot of time being spent in human resources planning the holiday schedule. Depending on what day certain holidays fall on it can create significantly different work weeks from year to year. This leads to scheduling issues with people taking vacation days and it may mean the company adds a floating holiday. Then you have the issue with payroll, at least those who pay bi-weekly. Some years have 26 pay periods, some wind up with 27. January 1st may not be the actual first day of a pay period and the schedule is constantly changing from year to year. This has to have some sort of accounting cost associated with it.

What would a new calendar look like?

Henry proposes a calendar that is simply one day shorter than our current calendar bringing the number of days to 364 which is divisible by 7 equally. There is a problem though. The Earth does not revolve around the sun at an even number which is why we have leap years. So to address this a “leap week” would be added every five or six years and ask that employers make it a paid holiday week to compensate for having both Christmas and New Year’s Day annually fall on Sundays.

Personally I have mixed feelings regarding this idea. On one hand I do see that there could be some sort of economic benefit in creating a more standardized calendar, to what dollar amount I’m not sure. I also think that having a more regular system in place would simplify our already complicated lives just a little.

On the other hand this is a major proposal and it certainly wouldn’t come without tremendous opposition and complaining. Because of this I would wonder if the time and money spent trying to push this change would be better spent elsewhere. Who knows, they did change Daylight Saving Time this year citing the economic benefits of doing so. If that can get through, who knows, maybe we have an argument for a new calendar as well.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

3 comments
Enough Wealth
Enough Wealth

You'd also have to allow for the lost GDP due to all the calendar makers etc. going out of business!

Seriously though, if the US can't even bite the bullet and go fully metric (at the current rate it's being phases in, you'll still be using cubits when Y3K is an issue) I can't see this idea being worth serious consideration.

However, if Richard is keen on making "logical" changes to increase efficiency, then he could also consider:
- recycling all entertainment (music, TV, film etc) every ten years, to save the cost of producing all the "new" stuff each year.
- eating only tofu and rice, thus eliminating all the waste associated with producing meat, chocolate etc.
- banning all drugs, alcohol etc. (Oh, that was tried already, wasn't it)
- making the speed limit 40 mph and building road vehicles that can't exceed that limit (save fuel and road deaths)

Perhaps the best cost saving option is to get academics like Richard to get a grip on reality and stop wasting their time on "pie in the sky" theorising.

Jeremy
Jeremy

That is a fantastic observation I had not even considered with the technology. Like you mentioned in comparison with the Y2K thing, we are even more reliant on computers today and the cost involved in switching all systems would be almost mind-blowing. Not even looking at just personal computers, but nearly every single electronic device known to man from cell phones, calculators, and watches all the way to things like satellites in space.

That being said, I think Mr. Henry is missing the big picture (I did as well when I first read the article). While it is easy to point out the benefits of such a change, when looking at all of the existing things that would need to also be changed would probably end up costing far more and would not break even for decades.

So like you said, probably focusing on how to automate or improve upon our current system is a better way to focus his energy.

I can say though that since I work directly with payroll in helping people with salary deferrals for their retirement plans it can be a big hassle. I have a payroll schedule pinned on the wall right next to my screen so I can keep track of all the various deadlines and paydays. Holidays can cause cut-offs to be bumped ahead or behind, sometimes there is an additional whole pay period, people get upset when their application doesn't take on the correct pay period, etc.

So I can certainly see where he was coming from, but since you brought up the technology issue I just don't see how this change could be feasible.

Lazy Man and Money
Lazy Man and Money

For every dollar saved in the short term, there would be $100 lost as every computer system in the world is retrofitted for such a change. If you thought he year 2000 caused an uproar, this would be 1,000 times worse.

Beyond that a leap week would throw off financial projections. When you add a whole week in between two regular years, it has a big impact. What do you do for that week? Do you get it off from work, or are salaried workers still paid an annual rate to work for free? Once every four years, a day is not a big deal, but things would get kind of far off their normal time if we had a leap week every 28 years.

As far as the problems with scheduling, computers and technology can be used to automate many of the tasks now. I recommend he take advantage of these tools and use them to make his website automatically take these things into account. When he's done that it will be easy enough to market and sell the product making him money and saving all this money in unproductive rescheduling.

Personally, I don't spend any time rescheduling and/or know anyone who does.