The Power Years': Make Your 40s the Best Years Yet

Late achievement, while multiplying in frequency, isn't altogether new. Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was almost eighty. Groucho Marx launched a new career as a television-show host at sixty-five. George Bernard Shaw was at work on a new play when he died at ninety-four. Galileo published his masterpiece Dialogue Concerning the Two New Sciences at seventy-four. Noah Webster was seventy when he published An American Dictionary of the English Language. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York at ninety-one. Mahatma Gandhi was seventy-two when he completed successful negotiations with Britain for India's independence. I. M. Pei was seventy-eight when he designed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Picasso painted The Rape of the Sabines at eighty-one. Golda Meir was prime minister of Israel from ages seventy to seventy-six. Jessica Tandy was eighty when she won her first Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy. Mary Baker Eddy was eighty-seven when she founded the Christian Science Monitor. At ninety-three, Lillian Gish starred in The Whales of August seventy-two years after starring in the silent film Birth of a Nation. At ninety-four, conductor Leopold Stokowski signed a six-year recording contract. At a hundred, Ichijirou Araya climbed Mount Fuji.

In their day, these remarkable men and women may have been considered highly unusual. But these Ageless Explorers have carved new trails ahead of us and represent the first wave of maturity pioneers. We baby boomers will be next, and we'll turn this thorny trail into a superhighway. Many of us are already thinking ahead. Joel Levinson, fifty-one, has begun to picture his power years as a real-estate investor. He's enjoyed a fruitful career in the advertising business and has run his own agency for the past decade. But he doesn't want to do that forever, and sees real estate as an exciting challenge and a way to build both an income stream for life and his net worth. Joel is in a great spot. He's reaching financial freedom ahead of his own expectations, and he has already begun mapping out how he'll break into the real-estate game, which he has been quietly passionate about for years.

"Every time we plan a vacation, I build in time to go off alone and scout out properties in the area," he says. "I love comparing values and studying what makes one place worth more than another. And lately I've begun to bore friends who are even remotely connected to the real-estate industry -- lawyers, brokers, investors -- with all my talk about getting into the game."

Joel says he's just days away from making his first investment. "Have been for years," he jokes. "There's always another book to read or another property to look at, so I've been slow to pull the trigger. And I'm wary that prices may be a bit inflated these days." But he figures all of his hours studying markets will pay off when he finally buys that first property. Besides, he's enjoyed every minute of his research.

Joel still has two kids at home, so he's in no rush to give up his primary, high-earning career. "The longer I wait, and the more I study, the greater chances of success I'll have when I finally start buying," he says. "I don't intend to take big risks. I'll buy one at a time and keep reinvesting the profits, and see how it works out. I figure I can minimize any chances that I'll lose money. I'll probably do very well, and if nothing else I'll enjoy how I'm spending my time."

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