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Willy means it takes a life time to achieve success and when it finally happens you are either too old or not alive to enjoy it.
Aslan is correct, but Willy might also be referring to the fact that by the time you have everything you want, and everything is going your way........ the kids are gone, the nest is empty, and you don't really need it anymore.
He literally means it. Houses take a lifetime to pay off. Noone ive ever seen has paid their house off personally. You literally work your whole life to pay for it, and then your life is over, with the house for noone. You worked for nothing. Its true.