Let's be honest. You want to get the most out of life, right? Well, that goes hand in hand with knowing when certain skills or resources will peak. From that standpoint, researchers already have laid out a basic timeline for you, with Chris Weller and Skye Gould of Business Insider summarizing their results.

Brain power and cognitive function

  • Learning a new language = 8
  • Peak brain power = 18
  • Remembering names = 22
  • Playing chess = 31
  • Remembering faces =32
  • Making a Nobel Prize-winning discovery = 40
  • Arithmetic skills = 50
  • Vocabulary = 71

Even though it's absolutely possible to learn another language later in life, the brain takes to it the best before puberty, when you're still growing, a lot of your neural pathways still are being laid out and you're still figuring out the world in a general way. But you don't quit learning once you've got basic syntax down--you keep picking up words and grasping connotations through most of your life as you experience more. So there's something to be said for writing your memoirs or a fiction bestseller in retirement, or for starting a public speaking career with a few years under your belt.

Even though you of course want to stay mentally sharp as you age, it doesn't hurt you that your brain power actually peaks right around when you're trying to get to college and lay the foundation for a career. And once college is over and you've got your foot in the door, it's the perfect time to tackle your general life strategy and think about how to get where you'd like to go. Since you can remember faces best in your early 30s, building your network should be part of that strategy.

But don't think it's all downhill once you approach middle age. You're most likely to do your best work around age 40, which might be because you've already gotten other big life worries--for instance, school, finding a job or partner or deciding where to settle--out of the way. This is the time for big research projects, sabbaticals and the like. And since your math skills peak a decade or so later, it makes total sense to check your investments and have a second look at your overall financial situation in late middle age, especially because you might be preparing to send kids off to college or considering a career shift.

Physical performance and health

  • Muscle strength = 25
  • Running a marathon = 28
  • Bone mass = 30
  • Happiness with your body = 74

From a strictly evolutionary/biology perspective, being at your physical peak in your 20s makes it the best time for attracting a partner and starting a family. Not surprisingly, the age most people pair off is 26, with the ability to finally get out and meet more people helping Mother Nature out. You'll probably have a little more endurance and oomph to put behind your work--it's the best time to do labor-related jobs or side hobbies, say yes to shift changes or put in extra hours, for example. You should exercise and eat right at any age (you are, right?), but start really focusing on your workouts and diet around age 30 to maintain the status you have.

Interestingly, you probably will feel better about the package you're in as a senior, not when you're in your best shape and "smokin' hot". That might be because, as you get older, you learn to be less self-critical and competitive, and you can appreciate your body for everything it's done for you over the years. This is a good time to try a new look or age-appropriate sport, but consider using your body confidence to mentor others, too.


Salary (women) = 39

Salary (men) = 48

According to Payscale's analysis, women's salaries peak earlier (around a median of $60,000) because they grow more slowly than men's salaries (peak median $95,000) starting at around 30. So if you're female, invest more as early as you can. Regardless of gender, if you haven't already done so before your salary maxes out, start simplifying your standard of living and downsizing to improve your odds of being able to keep saving for retirement.

Keep in mind, much of this analysis is based on averages. Everyone is individual, and you might face circumstances that change your logistics game. But these studies still can serve as a basic outline and help you understand whether you're in the right ball park for life's big milestones. What you do in between those milestones is totally your call and part of the adventure.