How many quarters do you need? Photo via Getty Images

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.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Six-figure earners live well in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Houston earns top-10 rank among best U.S. cities for workers making $100K

the good life

In Houston, $100,000 per year goes much farther than many other Texas cities. A new study by personal finance website GOBankingRates.com ranked Houston No. 7 on its list of the best cities for six-figure earners in the U.S.

The annual net pay after taxes for a six-figure earner in Houston comes out to $78,089, according to the study. When factoring in major expenses like rent, groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation costs, and miscellaneous expenses, that adds up to $43,105.46 per year, which leaves just under $35,000 leftover. Houston's continuing inflation troubles surely aren't helping, either.

Here's how GOBankingRates breaks down Houston's expenses:

  • Annual rent: $19,215.67
  • Annual groceries: $5,594.64
  • Annual healthcare: $5,563.35
  • Annual utilities: $4,389.79
  • Annual transportation costs: $7,364.29
  • Annual miscellaneous costs: $977.72
Houston appears one spot lower than its No. 6-rank in a similar 2023 study by SmartAsset. That study said Houstonians' six-figure salary was reduced to $74,515 after taxes, but was technically worth $81,350 when adjusted for the cost of living.

Houston wasn't the only Texas city to earn a spot in the top 10 where a six-figure salary goes the farthest. Higher up on the list is El Paso (No. 2) and San Antonio (No. 3).

After taxes and annual expenses, six-figure earners in El Paso have $37,685 left over, which is over $2,700 more than what a Houstonian would have with the same salary. In San Antonio, residents making $100,000 per year average about $41,008 in annual expenses, which leaves $37,081 in their pockets after paying all the bills.

For the second year in a row, the U.S. city where a $100,000 salary goes the furthest is Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis residents have nearly $40,000 leftover after taxes and annual expenses on a $100,000 salary, the study says. Like Texas, Tennessee also doesn't impose an income tax on its residents.

The top 10 U.S. cities where a $100,000 salary goes the farthest are:

  • No. 1 – Memphis, Tennessee
  • No. 2 – El Paso, Texas
  • No. 3 – San Antonio, Texas
  • No. 4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • No. 5 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • No. 6 – Wichita, Kansas
  • No. 7 – Houston
  • No. 8 – Tucson, Arizona
  • No. 9 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 10 – Indianapolis, Indiana

In the study's analysis of the top 10 most expensive cities for six-figure earners, New York City took the crown as the city where residents are left "in the red" by the end of the year. Following close behind is San Francisco, California (No. 2); San Jose, California (No. 3); San Diego, California (No. 4); Boston, Massachusetts (No. 5); Oakland, California (No. 6); Los Angeles, California (No. 7); Washington, D.C. (No. 8); Miami, Florida (No. 9); and Long Beach, California (No. 10).

The report analyzed the average expense costs in 50 of the most populous American cities, and subtracted those costs from each city's annual net annual pay after taxes on a $100,000 salary. Rankings were determined based on the amount of annual income leftover. Data was pulled from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, the Zillow Observed Rental Index, and more.The report and its methodology can be found on gobankingrates.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The No. 1 city on the list was from Texas, but it wasn't Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Texas cities see mixed results on list of top markets to start a business

progress report

While the Lone Star State secured top marks for states to launch a company, Houston was a bit outpaced by two of its sister cities.

According to a study by The Credit Review, a personal finance website, Texas was one of the best states in which to start a small business in 2023. In fact, Austin was the No. 1 city in the list entitled "25 Best U.S. Metros to Start a Small Business in High-Growth Sectors," which came out at the end of November.

“There are so many reasons why Austin is the best place to start a small business that it would require another article to explain them all,” the article reads.

Austin grabbed the top spot as the best city to start a small business in America in the top five sectors, including arts, entertainment, and recreation; and information services.

But that’s not the only reason that Texas was a winner. Dallas was No. 8 on the list for its fast growth in the area of management of companies and enterprises, while Houston was No. 22.

On the other hand, McAllen and El Paso were among the worst places in the country to start a small business. With McAllen’s 29.3 percent poverty rate, it comes in last for the entire country.

The Credit Review, which hails from Austin, compared the 100 largest MSAs in the United States for fast-growth and small business-survivability indicators such as population change, GDP, and the state of fastest-growing business sectors based on growth projections for 2021-2031 in each MSA. The team’s sources include the U.S. census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tax Foundation, and U.S. Courts.

It's worth noting that Houston’s GDP per capita score was one of the highest on the list, 8.9 out of 10. (Austin’s was 9.3.) The metro area, which also included Sugarland and The Woodlands, was noted for its top sector, arts, and entertainment.

Earlier this year, Texas ranked highly on two separate lists evaluating the best states to start a business. In January, the state ranked No. 3 on WalletHub's annual report, and then in April, Texas cinched No. 3 on Credit on Tap's ranking.

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Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.

Booming Houston suburb, other Texas towns among the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2023

by the numbers

One Houston suburb experienced one of the most rapid growth spurts in the country last year: Fulshear, whose population grew by 25.6 percent, more than 51 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5 percent. The city's population was 42,616 as of July 1, 2023.

According to U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2023 Population Estimates, released Thursday, May 16, Fulshear — which lies west of Katy in northwest Fort Bend County - ranked No. 2 on the list of fastest-growing cities with a population of 20,000 or more. It's no wonder iconic Houston restaurants like Molina's Cantina see opportunities there.

The South still dominates the nation's growth, even as America’s Northeast and Midwest cities are rebounding slightly from years of population drops. The census estimates showed 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in the South — eight in Texas alone.

The Texas cities joining Fulshear on the fastest-growing-cities list are:

  • Celina (No. 1) with 26.6 percent growth (42,616 total population)
  • Princeton (No. 3) with 22.3 percent growth (28,027 total population)
  • Anna (No. 4) with 16.9 percent growth (27,501 total population)
  • Georgetown (No. 8) with 10.6 percent growth (96,312 total population)
  • Prosper (No. 9) with 10.5 percent growth (41,660 total population)
  • Forney (No. 10) with 10.4 percent growth (35,470 total population)
  • Kyle (No. 11) with 9 percent growth (62,548 total population)

Texas trends
San Antonio saw the biggest growth spurt in the United States last year, numbers-wise. The Alamo City added about 22,000 residents. San Antonio now has nearly 1.5 million people, making it the the seventh largest city in the U.S. and second largest in Texas.

Its population boom was followed by those of other Southern cities, including Fort Worth; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Fast-growing Fort Worth (978,000) surpassed San Jose, California (970,000) to become the 12th most populous city in the country.

Meanwhile, population slowed in the Austin area. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000), outpaced Austin (980,000), pushing the Texas capital to 11th largest city in the U.S. (barely ahead of Fort Worth).

Population growth in Georgetown, outside Austin, slowed by more than one-fourth its population growth in 2022, the report says, from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent. It's the same story in the Central Texas city of Kyle, whose population growth decreased by nearly 2 percent to 9 percent in 2023.

Most populated cities
New York City with nearly 8.3 million people remained the nation's largest city in population as of July 1, 2023. Los Angeles was second at close to 4 million residents, while Chicago was third at 2.7 million and Houston was fourth at 2.3 million residents.

The 15 populous U.S. cities in 2023 were:

  1. New York, New York (8.3 million)
  2. Los Angeles, California (4 million)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2.7 million)
  4. Houston, Texas (2.3 million)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1.7 million)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1.6 million)
  7. San Antonio (1.5 million)
  8. San Diego, California (1.4 million)
  9. Dallas (1.3 million)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000)
  11. Austin (980,000)
  12. Fort Worth (978,000)
  13. San Jose (970,000)
  14. Columbus, Ohio (913,000)
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina (911,000)

Modest reversals of population declines were seen last year in large cities in the nation's Northeast and Midwest. Detroit, for example, which grew for the first time in decades, had seen an exodus of people since the 1950s. Yet the estimates released Thursday show the population of Michigan’s largest city rose by just 1,852 people from 631,366 in 2022 to 633,218 last year.

It's a milestone for Detroit, which had 1.8 million residents in the 1950s only to see its population dwindle and then plummet through suburban white flight, a 1967 race riot, the migration to the suburbs by many of the Black middle class and the national economic downturn that foreshadowed the city's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

Three of the largest cities in the U.S. that had been bleeding residents this decade staunched those departures somewhat. New York City, which has lost almost 550,000 residents this decade so far, saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year.

Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year, following a decline in the 2020s of almost 78,000 residents. Chicago, which has lost almost 82,000 people this decade, only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

And San Francisco, which has lost a greater share of residents this decade than any other big city — almost 7.5 percent — actually grew by more than 1,200 residents last year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How this Houston clean energy entrepreneur is navigating geothermal's hype to 100x business growth

houston innovators podcast Episode 237

Geothermal energy has been growing in recognition as a major player in the clean energy mix, and while many might think of it as a new climatetech solution, Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy, knows better.

"Every overnight success is a decade in the making, and I think Fervo, fortunately — and geothermal as a whole — has become much more high profile recently as people realize that it can be a tremendous solution to the challenges that our energy sector and climate are facing," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

In fact, Latimer has been bullish on geothermal as a clean energy source since he quit his job as a drilling engineer in oil and gas to pursue a dual degree program — MBA and master's in earth sciences — at Stanford University. He had decided that, with the reluctance of incumbent energy companies to try new technologies, he was going to figure out how to start his own company. Through the Stanford program and Activate, a nonprofit hardtech program that funded two years of Fervo's research and development, Latimer did just that.

And the bet has more than paid off. Since officially launching in 2017, Fervo Energy has raised over $430 million — most recently collecting a $244 million series D round. Even more impressive to Latimer — his idea for drilling horizontal wells works. The company celebrated a successful pilot program last summer by achieving continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production with Project Red, a northern Nevada site made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Next up for Fervo is growing and scaling at around a 100x pace. While Project Red included three wells, Project Cape, a Southwest Utah site, will include around 100 wells with significantly reduced drilling cost and an estimated 2026 delivery. Latimer says there are a dozen other projects like Project Cape that are in the works.

"It's a huge ramp up in our drilling, construction, and powerplant programs from our pilot project, but we've already had tremendous success there," Latimer says of Project Cape. "We think our technology has a really bright future."

While Latimer looks ahead to the rapid growth of Fervo Energy, he says it's all due to the foundation he put in place for the company, which has a culture built on the motto, "Build things that last."

“You’re not going to get somewhere that really changes the world by cutting corners and taking short steps. And, if you want to move the needle on something as complicated as the global energy system that has been built up over hundreds of years with trillions of dollars of capital invested in it – you’re not going to do it overnight," he says on the show. "We’re all in this for the long haul together."