I'm almost as new here as you, Larry, but welcome. I'm sure you'll get plenty of good assistance and lots of advice.
It sounds like you are considering flying under your private pilot certificate exercising sport pilot privileges. That lets you fly LSA and any standard certified aircraft that always has met LSA criteria under sport pilot rules.
For $40k you can buy your own standard certified category airplane, such as a J3 Cub, some Ercoupes, some Luscombes, some Taylorcraft and more that meet LSA criteria. Be careful that they have not been modified and now don't fit in the LSA category. You can not bring them back once they are out.
Here is a URL.
http://www.sportpilot.org/learn/lsa/sta ... craft.html
Of course, these are not the new, sexy, fast and aviionics loaded planes we see like the Flight Design, Cessna Skycatcher and so forth.