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Flush with cash? Study shows it takes an income of $145K to be 'rich' in Austin

Those who make $145k or more can be considered 'rich' in Austin, according to a Banking Rates study. (CC)

Make $145,000 or more in Austin?

Your bank statement may pale in comparison to fellow Austinites Elon Musk or billionaire Robert F. Smith, but anyone with that or more on their yearly salary checks can now classify themselves as wealthy alongside the elite, according to a recent study by finance media site Banking Rates.

The study classified those in the top 20% of income as rich across 50 cities in the U.S. Austin, which saw the highest rates of any Texas city, found that it takes at least a $145,000 yearly statement to fit into that category.

But an average person in that high brow category shoots even higher: the average income among those 20 percenters was $267,777. The study, which used data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, also found the average income of the top 5% to be over $485,000.

Austin's average incomes came in eighth highest on the list and higher than Texas cities including Fort Worth (22), Arlington (23), Houston (25), Dallas (28) and El Paso (45). Starting incomes in the top 20% ranged from $116,807 in Arlington to $94,422 in El Paso.

Labeled a "little California" by the aforementioned Musk and thousands of Californians moving to Austin to avoid their home state's higher cost of living, it's no surprise that Austin sat just below West Coast cities San Francisco (1), San Jose (2), Seattle (4), Oakland (5) and San Diego (7). San Francisco's top 20% starts at nearly $240,000, the highest on the list, while Washington, D.C. (3) and Boston (6) rounded out the list's top eight.

And while average income falls well below the $145,000 mark and significantly lower than West Coast hubs, Austin's median household income increased by 30% from 2014 to 2019, where it reached just over $71,500. But the high-demand local economy is starting to sag under the weight of new move-ins—including big-name tech companies and startups—and Austin's former low cost of living is predicted to be the highest in a country outside of California by the end of the year.

Despite high incomes when compared to other Texas counterparts, Austin is encountering an affordability crisis, with studies showing that the city is among the most unfriendly in the U.S. for minimum wage workers—even if the bar was raised to $15 an hour.

But the formerly flaming hot housing market is beginning to slow, and as a 2020 CNBC budgeting article shows, those making $145k aren't likely to have many budgeting issues anytime soon. And for homeowners, many former West Coasters, techies and anyone who made the "rich" list, the city is still among the best relocation markets in the world as it continues to solidify its "boomtown" status.


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