Some people who finally discover the world of stock investing ask themselves (or us) this kind of question: "I'm middle-aged and don't earn much money. Can I really invest? And would my investments really ever amount to much?" Essentially, they're wondering if they've arrived at the party too late -- if investing at their advanced age (perhaps they're in their 40s or 50s) is worth it.

Here's my answer: It's never too late (or early!) to begin investing!

Sure, the longer your investments can grow, they bigger they'll likely grow. Sure, children and teenagers (and maybe even your grandchildren who haven't even been born yet) are in the best position to reap the greatest rewards from stock investing.

But that doesn't mean that a 45-year-old can't do well over the next 20 or 30 years, and that a 55-year-old can't make good money over the next 10 or 20 years. Remember, too, that many of us will live to 90 or beyond. If so, then some of our money may well remain in stocks for another 50 years.

Think of Anne
For inspiration, it helps to have a patron saint of investing. I nominate, with just a little reservation, Anne Scheiber. Permit me to relate her amazing story, in case you haven't heard it:

In 1932, Ms. Scheiber was a 38-year-old IRS auditor. Intrigued by the stock market, she forked over most of her life savings to her brother, a young stockbroker on Wall Street, who lost it. Determined to try again, but this time relying on herself, she saved $5,000 and plunked it back into stocks in 1944 (at the age of 50). By the time she died in 1995 at the age of 101, her money had grown to $20 million. How'd she do it?

Well, for starters, she was a long-term, involved investor. She didn't buy a stock today and sell it tomorrow. She attended shareholder meetings and followed her companies closely. She bought big, consumer-brand companies like PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP), Chrysler [now DaimlerChrysler AG (NYSE:DCX)], and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), and she reinvested her dividends. She placed her faith -- and her money -- in these growing companies and watched their earnings grow higher over decades. And, when she died, Anne donated it all to Yeshiva University in New York.

If you're wondering what my reservation is, it's that Ms. Scheiber may not have enjoyed her life as much as she could have. She was extremely frugal, apparently saving as many pennies as she could by skipping meals and wearing old clothes. I think that it's quite possible to do very well in your investing and still enjoy life.

Lessons for us
So what should we take away from her example? Lots of lessons:

  • We don't need to find obscure little companies to make us rich. Big, established firms can do that, too. Retailer TJX (NYSE:TJX), which operates TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores, among others, has rocketed ahead by some 33% per year on average during the past decade. Electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit (NYSE:JBL) has grown by some 37% per year, on average, during that period.
  • Great things can come to investors who are patient. It can pay off to hang in there through a company's ups and downs -- because over several decades, most companies will have them. Consider an extreme example -- Intel (NASDAQ:INTC). Arguably caught up in the hoopla of the recent bubble, it peaked around $72 per share back in 2000 and has since lost more than 70% of that value. If you had been holding on to it since 1996, though, you'd still have more than doubled your money.

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Remember -- it's never too late (or early!) to begin investing!

Coca-Cola and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations.

Selena Maranjian 's favorite discussion boards include Book Club, Eclectic Library , Television Banter, and Card & Board Games. She owns shares of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola but no shares of any other company mentioned in this article. 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.