Here's how big your nest egg needs to be in Texas if you want an early retirement. Photo via Pexels

Many working adults have asked themselves whether or not they'll be able to achieve an early retirement, but the reality is: It's not attainable anywhere in the U.S. without a substantial nest egg (and the income to go with it).

In Texas, that nest egg would have to be at least $1 million in the bank, according to a new annual report by personal finance website GoBankingRates.

The report, "Early Retirement: Here’s How Much Savings Is Needed To Retire by 40 in Every State," examined each state's cost of living and Social Security benefits to determine exactly how much money you'd need to have stocked away to achieve an early retirement.

According to the study's findings, the total cost of living expenses for the average Texan adds up to $3,362.63 per month, or $40,351.50 a year.

Based on those numbers, GoBakingRates calculated that a Texas resident retiring by age 40 would need a jaw-dropping $1,278,894.70 saved up if they were to live until they were 80 years old.

If a 40-year-old Texan lived to be 90, that nest egg would have to be $1,458,966.13, and if they lived to be 100, they'd need $1,639,037.55 in their savings for those remaining 60 years.

Texas came in at No. 20 on the list. Texans can breathe a (small) sigh of relief they aren't retiring in Hawaii, which came in at No. 1 on the list, with the highest amount of savings needed to retire early. The annual cost of living in Hawaii is nearly $107,000, which means a 40-year-old Hawaiian would need more than $3.94 million to retire early and enjoy 40 years of retirement.

California came in second, followed by Washington DC, Massachusetts, and Washington state.

The states with the least amount of savings required to retire by 40 are:

  • No. 1 – West Virginia
  • No. 2 – Mississippi
  • No. 3 – Oklahoma
  • No. 4 – Arkansas
  • No. 5 – Kentucky
  • No. 6 – Louisiana
  • No. 7 – Alabama
  • No. 8 – Kansas
  • No. 9 – Iowa
  • No. 10 – Michigan

GOBankingRates sourced cost of living data and national average expenditure data for retired residents from the Missouri Economic and Research Information Center, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure for Retired Residents, and Zillow’s Home Value Index. These three data points were combined to determine the average annual cost of living for retired residents, and used the typical retirement age of 65 to factor in the full Social Security benefits, thus calculating the average income to be expected in retirement.

The report echoes national ongoing financial strife in regards to inflation and cost of living increases, where not even Houston is immune.

The full report can be found on gobankingrates.com.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How many quarters do you need? Photo via Getty Images

Here's how much money Houstonians need in case of emergency

get to saving

With nearly 40 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, many Texans are scrambling to afford their basic needs. A new study on how much money you need in your emergency fund should be a wake-up call.

The report, from personal finance website GOBakingRates.com, suggests that residents living in Houston should be stockpiling a minimum of $17,461 to cover six months' worth of expenses in the event of an emergency.

The report analyzed the annual average expenditures and cost of living in the 50 most populous U.S. cities, and ranked them based on the estimated minimum emergency savings needed for three to six months to cover basic living expenses.

According to the study's findings, the average Houstonian's total expenditures add up to $34,828 per year. That includes the average cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and other miscellaneous costs.

The minimum emergency fund estimates in Houston are:

  • For a 3-month emergency fund: $8,707
  • For a 4-month emergency fund: $11,609
  • For a 5-month emergency fund: $14,512
  • For a 6-month emergency fund: $17,414

Houston ranked No. 37 out of all 50 U.S. cities with the highest projected emergency funds, so it could be a lot worse. In San Francisco, for example, which is No. 1 on the list, you'd need to put aside $52,000-plus for a six-month emergency fund.

Since these estimates are "minimum," the actual figures for Houston could tick slightly higher. But even so-called affordable cities present a challenge.

"While the emergency savings you need will vary depending on the cost of living where you live, even in the most affordable major cities in America, $500 won’t be enough to keep you afloat for one month, let alone six," the report said.

In the event of a real emergency, Texans should search 211texas.org, the online database for Texas Health and Human Services, featuring information on food banks, electric bill assistance, domestic violence resources, and more.

Around Texas

The Texas city with the highest six-month emergency fund is, predictably, Austin (No. 13) where annual expenses average $52,052, or $17,224 more than Houston. In Austin, the minimum six-month emergency found would need to be $26,000.

Texans living in Arlington (No. 30), Dallas (No. 31), and Fort Worth (No. 32) would need nearly $19,000 saved up to cover six months of expenses.


In San Antonio (No. 38), the estimated six-month emergency fund adds up to a little more than $17,000. El Paso (No. 48) is the Texas city with the lowest amount of money needed for six months, at $15,005.

California cities dominated the top 10 with the highest annual expenses and highest emergency funds. San Francisco took the No. 1 spot, with average annual expenses at $104,729, and an emergency six-month fund of $52,365.

The top 10 U.S. cities with the highest estimated minimum six-month emergency funds are:

  • No. 1 – San Francisco, California ($52,365)
  • No. 2 – San Jose, California ($46,258)
  • No. 3 – Oakland, California ($38,106)
  • No. 4 – Los Angeles, California ($35,160)
  • No. 5 – Seattle, Washington ($34,455)
  • No. 6 – San Diego, California ($34,396)
  • No. 7 – New York, New York ($32,363)
  • No. 8 – Washington, D.C. ($32,132)
  • No. 9 – Long Beach, California ($31,528)
  • No. 10 – Boston, Massachusetts ($31,297)

GOBankingRates.com collected its data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, cost of living indexes from Sperlings BestPlaces, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The report and its methodology can be found on gobakingrates.com.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Everything's bigger here in Texas — including the spending. Photo via Getty Images

Texas charges up top-10 rank in states dealing with the most debt, per report

loan star state

It's not too late to rein in that holiday spending, Texas. A new financial report has revealed Texas is the No. 9 state with the highest debt levels in the country.

The report by personal finance website CreditDonkey examined each state's average mortgage debt, student debt, automobile debt, and credit card debt. Rankings were determined based on which state had the highest amount of debt.

Texas was ranked so highly due to its rampant amount of auto loan debt, the most out of all 50 states. Over 100 million Texans have loans on their cars, which has racked up more than $1.5 trillion in auto loan debt. The average Texan's auto loan debt stands at $27,739.

Texans' higher-than-average credit card debt was also a major factor, according to the report. The average credit card debt amount adds up to $6,542.

Speaking of debt, it's worth noting that this report comes after a recent survey that found The Woodlands ranks No. 10 in the U.S. for holiday spending budgets. (No word as to how much of that holiday spending ends up as revolving credit balances.)

The average mortgage debt in the Lone Star State is $217,461, while the average student debt amounts to $33,354. In Houston, first time buyers need to earn 13.9 percent more than 2022 to afford that first home, per a recent report.

While Texas' level of debt is no laughing matter, residents can find some relief they're not living in California. Californians have the most debt in America, with the average mortgage debt at nearly $423,000 per household, and an average student loan debt of $37,384.

CreditDonkey Director of Research Anna Ge explained the "multifaceted story" of why debt in Texas (and overall in the United States) has skyrocketed over the years.

"The causes for the surge in debt are rooted in a confluence of factors – from the pursuit of higher education to home-ownership aspirations and the challenges of rising costs across the board," she said. "The ease of access to credit, while providing immediate relief, has contributed to a culture where spending can outpace income."

Population growth and consumerism are two other driving factors, according to Ge.

"There are also more deep-rooted issues that are causing such drastic increases in debt, from rising costs of essentials such as gas and groceries, to healthcare and living expenses (rent and bills), as costs continue to rise many Americans are being pushed to the edge and require relief that inevitably results in the building up of debt," Ge continued.

The top 10 states struggling with the most debt are:

  • No. 1 – California
  • No. 2 – Hawaii
  • No. 3 – Maryland
  • No. 4 – Alaska
  • No. 5 – Colorado
  • No. 6 – Washington
  • No. 7 – Virginia
  • No. 8 – Georgia
  • No. 9 – Texas
  • No. 10 – Nevada
------

This article originally ran on CultureMap. Steven Devadanam contributed to this article.

A Houston innovator has created a video game that teaches users money fundamentals. Image via eyf.money

Houston startup launches gamified financial education tool

let's play

The fact that the average American would struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense is a sign that there’s a dire need for a better understanding of financial literacy in this country.

But where is the proper starting point? What is the best age to start learning about debt, credit, inflation, loans, stocks, index funds, and personal finance?

According to Grant Watkins, founder of Earn Your Freedom, or EYF, and the startup’s new educational video game, Money Quest, the best time for people to start learning the basics of personal finance and economics is when they’re young.

“I stress to kids that the biggest advantage they have right now is their youth,” says former salesman turned entrepreneur Watkins. “If nothing else, I want kids to play our game to learn the value of compound interest. They’re young, so they should start early, plan early, be strategic, and have fun, life isn’t just all work. But the more you invest early, the more you’re going to have later.”

After realizing that it was best to teach solid financial principles to young people, it was a no-brainer to reach the conclusion that the best way for them to learn was via an educational video game.

That’s where Money Quest comes in.

The innovative and interactive web and mobile video game, which officially launched this month to celebrate Financial Literacy Month, was designed to help kids build a strong foundation in money management, economics and investment in a fun and engaging way. It features challenges and real-world scenarios such as renting a first apartment, opening a first bank account, budgeting at the grocery store, buying stocks and index funds and renting or buying real estate.

All of this is set up in the game’s imaginary city called Prosperity Point.

But before Watkins was able to get to his own Prosperity Point, he was in dire straits financially himself.

At only 27 years old, the native of Katy, Texas, and graduate of Oral Roberts University, found himself trying to get his own personal finances in order three or four years ago and quickly realized that had he been taught how to be an adult and all of the different financial obligations that come with that, it could have saved him from racking up thousands of dollars in debt and making other costly financial mistakes.

“After diving into it, I said, ‘Well, this is a pain, but I bet whoever solves this problem, it would be pretty great for them and everyone else in society,’” says Watkins, who lived in Beijing, China and worked in contract sales, before moving back to the United States. “So, I started working on this idea for Money Quest with the central focus on how I could make financial literacy more engaging?”

With the thread of an idea, Watkins joined Houston’s startup community in August 2021 and began to pull at it and after a prompt from Gamification Advisor Cal Miller, began learning how to code so he could build out his educational video game.

“After getting to the point where it was apparent that I couldn’t afford to get someone else to do it, I rolled up my sleeves and started teaching myself how to code,” says Watkins. “I learned it from free resources like Free Code Camp and Code Academy and we started building it in this specific programming language that we built this game in and just started from scratch.

“We went from one little house, to building an 8-bit character, to building out a road, to now it’s grown into a full-fledged city, with banks and grocery stores and cafes.”

For Watkins, half of his job is building the game and the other half is learning how to be better at building it.

When it came time to market Money Quest, he turned to CMO Keely McEnery, a 22-year-old student at the University of Houston’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Grant is a very smart, driven person, so I’m happy to be on this team, we complement each other very well,” says McEnery. “Money Quest is still a work in progress, it has come a long way since the beginning. Moving forward, we are going to be adding content to the game on a monthly basis and always creating more value.”

The partnership between Watkins and McEnery came at the right time because Texas has started passing laws like Texas Senate Bill 1063, which requires a semester of financial literacy in schools.

“Before COVID-19, there were only three states that had any sort of financial literacy requirements,” says Watkins. “But now, post-COVID, there’s 17 states that have already passed or are in the process of passing financial literacy bills.”

To that end, EYF is working diligently to make sure Money Quest meets the requirements of school curriculums across the country.

“All the studies coming out right now about gaming and education are overwhelmingly positive,” says McEnery. “With things like higher retention rates through gaming education. In fact, it’s dramatically higher.”

In addition to working with the Texas Education Agency and school districts like HISD all over the state of Texas, Watkins and team are working with banks that want to connect with their local high schools and middle schools to talk about financial literacy.

“We’re that perfect partner to connect with those schools and banks,” says Watkins. “They need to work with us because of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credits and it makes it a lot easier to connect with their local communities using us instead of just using pamphlets.”

As Watkins continues to bring Money Quest to the masses, he’s experimenting with creative ways for supporters of the game to get involved such as purchasing special NPC’s.

But as EYF builds its game’s brand recognition and begins to proliferate school curriculums, Watkins remains steadfast in his original goal to empower the next generation with the knowledge and skills to achieve financial freedom, which is the best kind of freedom as far as he’s concerned.

“At the end of the day, I want kids to learn to use money wisely, and not blow all their money in their 20s and get into high debt,” says Watkins. “I want to see them learn to be very strategic with their money from the beginning because not doing so will have repercussions down the line.

“I want to instill in them the importance of financial responsibility, smart money management, and economic literacy, so they can build a better financial future for themselves and their communities.”

Out of the largest 100 cities in the country, Houston ranks high up on the list that evaluated personal financial distress of citizens. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Houston ranks No. 3 on list of cities with the most people in financial distress amid COVID-19

money problems

During the pandemic-produced recession, debt and loans are weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of Houstonians.

A study released this week by personal finance website WalletHub found Houston ranks first among the country's 100 largest United States cities for online searches about debt and first for online searches about loans. Overall, Houston ranks third for financial distress, behind first-place Las Vegas and second-place Chicago.

To examine where Americans are struggling the most financially, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across nine key metrics. Factors taken into consideration include average credit score, number of bankruptcy filings between June 2020 and June 2019, and online searches regarding debt and loans.

Aside from sitting at No. 1 for interest in debt and loans, Houston ranks:

  • No. 9 for share of people with accounts in distress in September
  • No. 9 for average number of accounts in distress in September
  • No. 12 for average credit score in September

WalletHub defines a distressed account as one for which payments have been reduced, skipped or delayed.

Among Texas cities, Houston has a lot of company in WalletHub's top 10. San Antonio appears at No. 4, Dallas at No. 5, Austin at No. 8, and Fort Worth at No. 10. In all, the ranking includes 13 Texas cities. Irving demonstrates the most financial stability of the 13 cities, according to WalletHub, with its financial stress ranking at No. 72.

As with almost every U.S. city, Houston has been whacked by the recession. In September, the metro area's unemployment rate stood at 9.6 percent, up from 8.1 percent the previous month. Compared with the state's three other major metro areas, Houston's September unemployment rate was the highest. The September jobless rate was 6.4 percent in Austin, 7.4 percent in Dallas, 7.6 percent in Fort Worth, and 7.8 percent in San Antonio. The statewide unemployment rate was 8.3 percent, while the nationwide unemployment rate was 7.7 percent.

One of the main drivers of Houston's high unemployment rate is the ongoing slump in the U.S. oil, gas, and chemical industry. A report released October 5 by consulting giant Deloitte showed the nationwide sector shed 107,000 jobs from March to August.

"We will never see oil and gas employment get back to where it was in December 2014. Employment in the industry today is pretty much where it was in 2006," Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at the Houston Partnership, said in June. "Energy has been real good to Houston. It's still a big part of our economy, but we cannot rely on it like we have in the past."

A September report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas noted that the Houston area is in recovery mode, but the pace has slowed, mostly due to weakness in the energy sector. The report says "that while Houston's recovery is likely to continue, it will lag the state."

The report adds that the Houston area had recovered 33 percent of pandemic-era job losses as of August, compared with 42 percent across Texas and 48 percent nationwide.

Of course, the pandemic recession also has hammered the hospitality industry.

During his State of the City address on October 22, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said said 196 meetings, conferences, and conventions in the city had been canceled or rescheduled since March. The result: an estimated economic loss of $332 million. The city's hotel occupancy rate stands at a meager 44 percent, according to Turner, with the rate for downtown hotels at only 17 percent.

The pandemic's impact during the rest of 2020 and into 2020 "will be significant for our hospitality community," the mayor said.

Despite the downturn in the energy and hospitality sectors, Turner and others feel optimistic about what's ahead for Houston.

"As we gradually take steps to reopen, we recognize that the full recovery will take several years, but when we work together, we put ourselves in the best position to manage the virus and rebound from it," Turner said. "As we move forward through these unprecedented times, the city's foundation is strong, the city itself is resilient, and the city's future is bright."

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.