One of the biggest decisions new college graduates face after earning their bachelor's degree is whether to continue their education with a graduate degree or enter the professional world without one. The Education Data Initiative reports that the average cost of a master's degree is $65,134, so it's important to consider the financial benefits depending on an individual's chosen field of study.

In a metro area like San Antonio-New Braunfels, a graduate degree would mean a resident earns $14,459 more than if they only had a bachelor's degree, according to a new study by SmartAsset.

The average annual income of a San Antonio resident with a bachelor's degree is $57,689, the study says, with graduate degree earners making $72,148 per year.

The average annual pay in San Antonio for someone with a graduate degree is slightly greater than the national average of $72,000. The study further determined that on a national scale, a graduate degree nets individuals $16,000 more per year — a slightly greater increase than in San Antonio.

"Amid the high expenses of education and ever-changing job markets, it’s important to weigh the opportunity costs of a graduate degree with the additional earning potential," the study's author wrote. "A graduate or professional degree nets an extra $484,000 over a career, on average... This assumes a 30 year career in a medium or large metro area."

SmartAsset's study used 2021 U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year ACS S1501 data to determine the income for individuals aged 25 and older with varying professional degrees in 281 of the biggest metropolitan areas.

The Texas city where a graduate degree nets a resident the most amount of money is Midland, with a massive $24,394 difference between graduate degree and bachelor's holders. Average graduate degree pay in the West Texas city is $90,559 versus a bachelor's degree pay of $66,165.

The metro that landed at the top of the national ranks is San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California. A bachelor's degree holder makes an average salary of $102,214 in the area, whereas a graduate degree holder increases those earnings more than $48,000, totaling $150,281.

The full report and its methodology can be found on smartasset.com.

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Magnetic Texas attracts ranking as No. 2 state for wealthy new residents

rich population migration

Not only has Texas' population exploded with new residents in recent years, but it's been a hot spot for high-income households on the move. A new report says Texas has added more wealthy new residents than any other state but Florida.

According to SmartAsset's 2023 study "Where High Earners Are Moving," 22,751 households who moved into Texas between 2020 and 2021 filed tax returns with a minimum adjusted gross income of $200,000 (the figure defined as "high earner" in the report). In that same time frame, 13,743 high-earning taxpayers moved out of state.

This resulted in Texas seeing the second-highest influx of wealthy newcomers in the U.S., totaling 9,008.

It's worth noting that 2020-2021 were the years most impacted by the pandemic and its economic, health, and lifestyle after-effects.

"Despite cost of living challenges, the number of high-earning American households continues to grow," the report's author said. "In 2021, 8.68 million tax returns indicated annual earnings exceeding $200,000 – up from 8.57 million returns just a year earlier. The migration of these high-earning households can have significant effects on a state’s tax base and finances."

Texas hung onto its No. 2 rank for the second consecutive year from SmartAsset's 2022 report, which accounted for the tax year between 2019 and 2020. At the time, the state had an inflow of more than 18,400 high-earning households, and an outflow of over 13,000.

Florida was the only state to outrank Texas for two years in a row with the highest migration of wealthy new taxpayers. Florida's 2023 net migration amounted to 27,567 households that earn over $200,000 a year.

Meanwhile, California and New York lost the most high-earning households in 2021.

"While these states had the largest net outflows of high earners in 2021, they still maintain some of the nation’s highest percentages of high-earning households," the report said. "In fact, at least 7.2 percent of the tax base in each of these states earn $200,000 or more per year."

With its lower housing, rent, and living costs - and no state income tax - Texas continues to attract new residents from out of state. All indications are that the population of Texas, and San Antonio, will continue to swell.

The top 10 states with the highest net migration of high-earning households are:

  • No. 1 – Florida (27,567)
  • No. 2 – Texas (9,008)
  • No. 3 – North Carolina (5,446)
  • No. 4 – Arizona (4,563)
  • No. 5 – South Carolina (4,510)
  • No. 6 – Tennessee (3,917)
  • No. 7 – Nevada (2,785)
  • No. 8 – Idaho (2,315)
  • No. 9 – Colorado (2,052)
  • No. 10 – Utah (1,752)
SmartAsset determined their rankings using IRS data from 2020 to 2021 from tax-filers reporting an adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more and moved in or out of a state.

The full report can be found on smartasset.com.

Photo courtesy of Estately.com

Surprising Central Texas city boasts No. 1 U.S. housing market for first-time buyers

House hunting

Homebuyers looking to live outside of the bustling big city should turn their attention 150 miles northeast of San Antonio: Killeen has the best housing market in the country for first-time buyers, according to a new study by SmartAsset.

Killeen provides the three qualities potential homeowners prioritize the most: affordability, low competition, and growth potential, the report says. Median home prices there were sitting under $253,000 at the end of May, and the city has a one-year growth forecast of 7.4 percent.

"A home purchase can serve as a building block for the homeowner’s financial life – and the circumstances of the local market can make or break the deal," the report's author says. "First-time homebuyers may look for a less competitive market to have a better chance of getting a realistic offer accepted. They also need affordability to position themselves to grow their equity and a community within which to build a network."

Killeen is best known for its close proximity to Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood), the third-largest military base in the country. SmartAsset says the Killeen-Temple-Fort Cavazos metro area also boasts a "reasonably young population," and cites the median income of a resident at $63,458.

Killeen's No. 1 ranking in 2023 is a major improvement over its No. 89 ranking in SmartAsset's 2022 report.

Texas cities dominated the top 10 in the report, with Waco, about 60 miles northeast of Killeen, earning No. 6 (Waco did not appear in the 2022 report). Other Texas housing markets that earned high-ranking spots include Wichita Falls (No. 2) in North Texas, and two Rio Grande Valley cities: McAllen (No. 3), and Brownsville (No. 8).

The top 10 best places for first time homebuyers are:

  • No. 1 – Killeen, Texas
  • No. 2 – Wichita Falls, Texas
  • No. 3 – McAllen, Texas
  • No. 4 – St. Joseph, Missouri
  • No. 5 – Cape Coral, Florida
  • No. 6 – Waco, Texas
  • No. 7 – Huntsville, Alabama
  • No. 8 – Brownsville, Texas
  • No. 9 – Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • No. 10 – Jackson, Tennessee

SmartAsset's study ranked 185 metro areas based on their affordability, growth potential, housing competition, and population.

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Here's what it takes to be in the top 1 percent of earners in Texas

six-figures of wealth

It's always been said that the rich get richer as the years go on, and those who hold the most wealth are certainly making that phrase a reality. More than a third of the overall wealth in the United States is held by the top one percent of earners, who make about $652,657 a year.

But how much money does a Texan need to make to secure a place in the top one percent of earners in the state? A new study from SmartAsset, published July 17, determined that the answer is not too far off from the national amount, but is still well into the six-figure range: $631,849.

Texas has the 14th highest threshold of income needed for the exclusive classification.

Texas' latest ranking is a four-place drop from an earlier SmartAsset report from February 2023 that put Texas' one percent threshold at $641,400. SmartAsset typically publishes this report annually, but released an all-new report in July when new data from the IRS became available.

The new report further revealed that Southern states have the lowest income thresholds, with six out of the bottom 10 states being located in the Southeast.

"While Northeastern states like Massachusetts and New Jersey have some of the highest income thresholds for the one percent, it takes considerably less income to be considered in the top one percent in many Southern states," the study says.

However, holding onto that much wealth isn't without financial responsibility. Texans who are in that top one percent category have a tax rate of 25.83 percent.

The top 10 states with the highest thresholds to be considered in the top one percent of earners in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Connecticut ($952,902)
  • No. 2 – Massachusetts ($903,401)
  • No. 3 – California ($844,266)
  • No. 4 – New Jersey ($817,346)
  • No. 5 – Washington ($804,853)
  • No. 6 – New York ($776,662)
  • No. 7 – Colorado ($709,092)
  • No. 8 – Florida ($694,987)
  • No. 9 – Illinois ($660,810)
  • No. 10 – New Hampshire ($659,037)
To determine the different income thresholds for every state, SmartAsset used 2020 data from the IRS and adjusted the numbers to be accurate for May 2023.
The full report can be found on smartasset.com.
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This is how much money you need to live comfortably in San Antonio, new study finds

Money wise

Inflation is high, interest rates are skyrocketing, and honestly, just existing is expensive. Whether it be the price of eggs or a new car, trying to have a financially stable life in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas is becoming more and more difficult.

So, how much money do you need to make to live comfortably in San Antonio? Approximately $59,270 a year post-tax, according to a new study by financial tech company SmartAsset.

That’s an $11,000-plus increase from their previous annual report, where San Antonio residents only needed to make $48,228 a year post-tax to live comfortably in the area.

Their experts collected data from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator to determine the cost of living for a childless individual in the 25 largest American metro areas. They also used the 50/30/20 budgeting strategy to figure out what a “comfortable lifestyle” meant for the purpose of their study: 50 percent of their income goes to a person’s needs/living expenses, 30 percent to a person’s wants, and 20 percent for their savings or paying down debt.

To live a financially stable life, a childless San Antonio individual would need to spend $29,635 of their salary on their living expenses, $17,781 for discretionary expenses, and put $11,854 toward their savings or debt payments. Considering rent in the city has increased by 7 percent since 2022, that might be a tighter squeeze for some.

Susannah Snider, SmartAsset’s managing editor of financial education, says in the study that budgeting should be the “bedrock of many people’s financial plans.”

“And it’s especially essential to understand and track your spending when the cost of everyday items is rising,” said Snider. “Being able to stick to a 50/30/20 budget means you have enough to fund short- and long-term goals while paying for essential living expenses.”

To live comfortably in the largest metro areas in the United States, on average, an individual would need to make $68,499 a year after taxes, which is a 20 percent increase from 2022.

In other Texas metro areas, like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, a person would need to make $64,742 and $62,260 a year post-tax.

The full study and its methodology can be found on smartasset.com.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

This is how far a $100k salary goes in San Antonio, according to new study

Make that paper

Many people daydream about making six figures in their career before they enter the workforce. But the rising cost of living certainly throws a wrench in the works. Luckily for Texans, a six-figure salary still goes pretty far in the state.

In a new report from SmartAsset, a $100,000 salary in Texas is worth an average of $77,885 after taxes and adjusted for the cost of living. The financial technology company analyzed income in 76 United States cities, and adjusted them for the cost of living in each location.

Seven Texan cities appear in the study’s top 10 where a six-figure salary goes the furthest. San Antonio ranked No. 7 in a three-way tie with Fort Worth and Arlington. A person who makes $100,000 a year in all the three cities takes home about $74,515 after taxes. When adjusted for the cost of living, which is seven percent lower than the national average, that money is worth $80,124.

Houston ranked just before the Alamo City at No. 6 as the fourth Texas city on the list, after El Paso (No. 2), Corpus Christi (No. 4), and Lubbock (No. 5). A Houstonian's six-figure salary is reduced to $74,515 after taxes, but is technically worth $81,350 when adjusted for the cost of living.

Dallas appears at No. 34 on the list, with the average six-figure earner bringing home $72,345 after taxes. That salary shrinks in the northern Dallas suburb of Plano (No. 59), where the worker brings home $59,422.

The place where $100,000 goes the furthest is Memphis, Tennessee. Much like Texas, Tennessee doesn’t have a state income tax and has a lower cost of living in comparison to the national average.

After Memphis is El Paso, followed by Oklahoma City (No. 3), then Corpus Christi, Lubbock, and Houston. After the Texan three-way tie for No. 7, St. Louis, Missouri rounds out the top 10.

The 10 total Texas cities that appear in SmartAsset’s study include:

  • No. 2 – El Paso
  • No. 4 – Corpus Christi
  • No. 5 – Lubbock
  • No. 6 – Houston
  • No. 7 – San Antonio, Fort Worth, Arlington (tied)
  • No. 24 – Austin
  • No. 34 – Dallas
  • No. 59 – Plano

The report and its methodology can be found on SmartAsset’s website.

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10 San Antonio chefs go head-to-head in gourmet Burger Showdown

Burger Beasts

San Antonians can argue with friends all day about who has the best burger in town, but nothing lands quite like a head-to-head live victory.

This October, 10 San Antonio chefs are battling for those bragging rights at the Burger Showdown 4.0 — the numeral representing the competition's fourth year running. Hosted by cooking video series Homegrown Chef and Alamo Beer, the event will set all the chefs up under the Hays Street Bridge to serve up their best creations, so San Antonians can make the final call.

If eating 10 sliders seems excessive, think of it as a public service. Not only are visitors selecting the best burger (basically citizen science), but funds raised will benefit the San Antonio Food Bank.

This is the first year that the competition will be judged by a panel alongside the usual fan voters. There will be three judges: Great Day SA reporter Clark Finney; Edible San Antonio co-publisher Ralph Yznaga; and San Antonio Food Bank's director of food sustainability Mitch Hagney.

"The Burger Showdown is always such a great community event and a really fun way to celebrate our incredible chefs while getting out and trying something new and absolutely delicious," said Homegrown Chef founder and local food writer Kimberly Suta, who helped organize the event, in a release. "I like to challenge people to eat all the burgers because it's never been done!"

Chefs plan to bring the following burgers:

  • Chef Joseph Thadeus Martinez of Tributary (last year's 1st place winner) — "The French Onion Burger," featuring a Dean and Peeler smash patty, black pearl onion aioli, gruyere fonduta, and crispy shallots on a sourdough potato slider bun.
  • Chef James Richard Smith of toohotfortabc (last year's 2nd place winner) — "The Blue Mountain Smash Burger," featuring "sweet heat," bacon jam, and veggies on a Far West Texas Cattle Co. smashed beef patty with melted American cheese on a sourdough bun.
  • Chef Diana Anderson of JD's Chili Parlor (last year's 3rd place winner) — "The Italian Job," featuring tomato-basil pasta sauce, white wine and garlic-marinated beef, buffalo mozzarella, zucchini, red onion, and romaine hearts skewered with fried mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
  • Chef Justin Bluhm of STXBBQ — "The Oktoberfest Burger," inspired by beer, meat, cheese and pretzels. It features a beef patty with sliced brisket, house-pickled onions, and smoked beer queso on a soft pretzel bun.
  • Chef Joshua Calderon of Catering by JC — "The Backyard Barbecue Burger," featuring a beef patty, cheddar cheese, onion, cucumber, and iceberg lettuce on a potato roll.
  • Chef Stephen Chavez of FredericksBurgers — "The Bacon Huebner Burger," featuring bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese on a beef patty.
  • Chef Francisco Estrada of Naco — "The Aztec God Burger," featuring black garlic-seasoned beef, epazote aioli, caramelized onions, and huitlacoche.
  • Chef Greg Ferris of Bobbie’s Cafe — "The Texas Tailgate Burger," featuring a beef patty, American cheese, barbecue chips, and a mysterious "'go big or go home' twist."
  • Chef Kaius of The Kaius Experience — "The Texan Black Gold Burger" featuring a beef patty seasoned with Texan spices, topped with aged cheddar cheese, black garlic aioli, roasted jalapeño bacon, and crispy truffle sweet potato sticks, served on a brioche bun.
  • Chef Braunda Smith of Lucy Cooper’s Ice House — The release says, "This Food Network star is known for her burgers and will tell you she can make a burger out of absolutely anything, which is why she wants to surprise you!"

All burgers except those made by last year's first and second-place winners will be made pasture-raised Akaushi beef from local rancher 529meats. Ben E. Keith & Food Related will provide some toppings.

Tickets ($55) to the Burger Showdown 4.0 are available via Eventbrite. Only 25 VIP tickets ($75) will be sold; these guests will be welcomed 30 minutes early and will receive one drink ticket. Email homegrownchefsa@gmail.com, or text or call (210) 725-2339 to order.

Country icon Willie Nelson returns to traditional 'hillbilly' inspiration in new album

The Red Headed Stranger goes Blue

Almost as much as Willie Nelson is known for Austin, he's known for Nashville — and for subverting it. The 90-year-old singer has made an iconic, and extremely long career of conforming to and bucking against musical expectations, and now he's circled back around to tradition — without losing his own sound.

Nelson's new LP, Bluegrass, is his first album-length tribute to the traditional country genre. Yet, released on September 15, it's not even his first album of 2023. It follows I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard, a tribute to the Nashville songwriter who gave folks "I Fall to Pieces."

Bluegrass, in a way, is Nelson's genre-bent tribute to his own work. The setlist gathers a dozen of the songwriter and his fans' "favorite" songs he wrote, according to a press release, re-rendered with a bluegrass ensemble.

The focus on orchestration highlights that this is a collaborative effort by the amiable, but largely solo performer. One song, "Good Hearted Woman," is the only track on the album not just written by Nelson, thanks to the similar creative genius of outlaw country great Waylon Jennings. Willie's son, Micah Nelson, created the cover art: an appropriately blue portrait of the singer with warm undertones and a wreath of familiar recreational leaves. The album was produced by Willie's longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon.

Willie Nelson BluegrassNelson's son created the cover art — in blue, of course.Image courtesy of Willie Nelson; created by Micah Nelson

Even if a listener doesn't recognize each song on the album, Nelson's voice is as unmistakeable as ever. Against a bluegrass arrangement, it floats undisturbed and unhurried. At times, it even sounds like Nelson and the band are performing in different meters, the band bustling along cheerfully while the singer lounges around the beat — but never on it.

In fact, listeners who avoid Bluegrass may find their tune changes when listening to these laid-back renditions. "Still Is Still Moving To Me" brings the more frenetic tempo and multi-part harmonies that the genre is known for at its most ferocious; but iconic songs like "Sad Songs and Waltzes" and "Yesterday's Wine" may not even strike listeners as bluegrass if they're not listening for it — just very string-heavy traditional country tunes.

"On the Road Again," "Man With the Blues," and album-opener "No Love Around" are perhaps the tracks that benefit the most from the Bluegrass treatment. All three seem a little more cheerful, a little more upbeat, and a little more reassuring than their original forms. There's nothing warmer than hearing the iconic "On the Road Again" melody on gut strings — except perhaps listening to the country legend offer his "advice" over that plucky, self-assured backcountry orchestra.

Most important, the arrangements rework rather than rewriting the songs. None of the renditions give off an air of hokeyness or trying to shake things up; These are just great country songs that sound even better with a banjo. It makes sense that the change in instrumentation wouldn't shift much, since according to the release, Nelson decided to record the tribute because the style informed so much of his natural songwriting style.

"Using his own catalog as source material, in the spirit of traditional bluegrass sourcing hillbilly folk music, Willie chose songs combining the kind of strong melodies, memorable storylines and tight ensemble-interplay found in traditional bluegrass interpretations of the roots (from European melodies to African rhythms) of American folk songs," acknowledges the release.

By Texas Monthly'scount (shared in the release), this is Nelson's 151st album. Avid collectors can look forward to a 12-inch special edition pressed in blue vinyl, available for purchase on September 29. Preorder ($29.98) at willienelson.com.

This year the songwriter was honored with a five-part documentary series, a blowout 90th birthday concert, the naming of a prestigious arts endowment by the University of Texas at Austin, and two Grammy Awards. His book, Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs, comes out October 23. He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame days later, on November 3.

Listen to Bluegrass on your favorite streaming platform. More information is available at willienelson.com.

Cassandro wrestles with lucha libre and homophobia in real-life story

Movie Review

The LGBTQ community and the sports world have long had an uneasy relationship, especially in the United States. There are exceedingly few out male athletes around the world compared to the number of players total, and even though the world has progressed in significant ways, that statistic doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Although some don’t view professional wrestling as a sport, the culture around it is certainly testosterone-heavy, an idea that’s challenged in the new film, Cassandro. Saúl (Gael Garcia Bernal) lives in El Paso, but regularly crosses the border into Juarez, Mexico to participate in lucha libre matches. On the small side, he’s regularly cast as the runt, who never stands a chance at winning.

Openly gay, Saúl decides to change his wrestling persona to be an “exótico,” allowing him to express himself in a flamboyant manner. With the new wrestling name of Cassandro, Saúl starts to gain the notice of promoters and fans. At the same time, he wrestles with personal issues, including the strained life of his single mother, Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa) and an affair he’s having with a fellow luchador, Gerardo (Raúl Castillo).

Written and directed by Roger Ross Williams and co-written by David Teague, the film has a solidly-told story featuring a mixture of good performances, even if it feels like there’s something missing. The movie has all the hallmarks of an underdog story, and while it hits some of expected signposts along the way, it also strangely seems to hold back in certain aspects.

If you’re not already familiar with the lucha libre culture, the film doesn’t make it easy to get a handle on it. As in all pro wrestling, the matches aren’t “real,” but how and when the wrestlers decide how to perform and who will “win” feels confusing in the context of the film. It’s clear that the confidence Saúl shows as Cassandro makes him more appealing, but the intricacies of lucha libre could have been expounded on a bit more.

This becomes even more evident when fans are shown yelling gay slurs at him and other exóticos. There seems to be a contradictory performativeness to the antagonism, as those same fans soon start supporting him. Oddly, any other explicit homophobia is kept hidden, which - given the time period (the 1980s and ‘90s) and the machismo prevalent in Mexican culture - seems like the filmmakers made a conscious choice to not go down that road.

That and other decisions leave the film a bit flat emotionally. Saúl/Cassandro goes through a lot of upheaval in the film, and while the majority of it is engaging, there isn't a point where the story fully captures your heart. As with other areas, if the filmmakers had pushed just 10 percent harder, it would’ve turned the film from good to great.

Bernal turns in a fantastic performance, despite the fact that, even though he looks younger than he is, he’s a little old to be playing this particular character. Still, he has a charm and athleticism that makes him believable throughout. Good in supporting roles are Castillo (playing a similar role he did in The Inspection) and Roberta Colindrez as Saúl’s trainer. Keep an eye out for Bad Bunny in a small but interesting role.

There’s a lot to like about Cassandro, the story that’s being told, and the performances it contains. But by choosing not to explore certain parts of the story as much as they could have, the filmmakers left a lot of emotion out of it.


Cassandro is now playing in select theaters. It debuts on Prime Video on September 22.

Gael Garcia Bernal in Cassandro

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Gael Garcia Bernal in Cassandro.