Texans Carlos Santiago and Mary New, who both went from local schools to careers to partial retirement in Houston may as well live on separate planets when it comes to their lifestyles and financial realities.
While both remain residents of — and plan to end their days in — the nation’s fourth largest city, Santiago and New are on opposite sides of a wide income gap. Texas is home to more than 27 million people, including nearly 50 billionaires and more than 4.5 million people living in poverty.
“Texas is among the states with the highest income inequality,” says a December 2016 article posted on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Texas ranks 10th in the country, with its richest residents – the 5 percent of households – having average incomes 15 times as large as the bottom 20 percent of households and five times as large as the middle 20 percent of households.”
While Santiago and New are neither billionaires nor ranked at poverty level, Santiago’s once-steady work as a public relations consultant and photographer does not allow him to even maintain his high-crime north neighborhood apartment.
“I’m going to move in with my sister in Conroe (north of Houston). Temporarily, I hope,” said 43-year-old Santiago, adding that his sister had health issues, and asked him to come and help out.
Santiago’s general field of communications and information wasn’t even listed in the 2016 list of Texas Growth Opportunity jobs by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Published by the TWC in 2015, projections for that industry anticipate a growth of 1,000 U.S. dollars, or average wages of 39,000 to 49,000 U.S. dollars annually, from 2014 to 2024. The statistics, however, do not include telecommunications, which is expected to grow from 79,000 to 89,000 U.S. dollars during the same 10-year period.
Santiago eats on a frugal diet at home, sometimes augmented by free bread, butter and jam set out for patrons after shelling out for a cup of coffee at some chain restaurants.
At the same time, New, a retired teacher, and her husband of 35 years, a project manager for one of the country’s top five oil and gas engineering companies, treat themselves to one of their favorite restaurants almost every night.
“I might cook a meal every two weeks,” said New, 68. “Both our parents left us a significant nest egg and they were cautious about their money. Between my retirement and my husband’s salary, I guess we have, in excess of or close to, 250,000 (U.S. dollars annually). We have stocks and bonds. I guess you’d say we’re reasonably affluent.”
The News enjoy traveling, especially on cruises, all over the world, and live in a paid-off, 3,700-square-foot house so filled with furniture, mementos, three dogs and three cats that she described it as qualifying for a reality TV show, “Hoarders: Buried Alive.”
New’s husband recently bought a new truck, but New said she is still driving her high-mileage car.
“He likes to shop for gadgets we don’t need, and I give to quite a few animal rescue groups,” New said.
She said a lot of their money was spent on medical care, and they sent their daughter to an expensive, private university, and gave her an expensive wedding.
“We have two little grandchildren and I went crazy for (buying) their Christmas stuff, and I set aside money every month in an account for them, just as we did for our daughter and just as my mother did for me,” New said.
As her husband approaches retirement, which will almost halve their income depending on how their stock investments fare, New is glad neither of them owes any credit card or personal debt.
New will still receive her own money from government-sponsored Social Security and from a pension from her 35-year teaching career.
Perfect! That it’s mostly people of color living in poverty is the feature, not a bug.