Save Money, Retire Early: Here's how several Utahns hoarded their salaries so they could quit their jobs and live the life of their dreams.

Author:Penrod, Emma
 
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Until 2015, Crystalee Beck's life had more or less stuck to the script. She attended BYU, married, landed a solid job at a global marketing and sales company, even started a family. She was expecting her second child when she suddenly lost her job.

Ms. Beck's husband was already unemployed at the time, and between 2015-2016, she says, the family basically hit rock bottom. Despite laws protecting pregnant women during the hiring process, Ms. Beck's pregnancy prevented her from finding a new job, and they ended up living on her unemployment check for the better part of a year.

"I remember in the crux of it, that all our savings was getting drained month after month," she recalls. "We found ourselves at this point where I didn't feel like I could buy gum at the grocery store-that felt like a luxury I couldn't afford.

She became wracked with anxiety about money and raising their children, and she and her husband began to fight about finances. In February 2016, she says, she made herself a promise: "I was going to figure out money."

Three years later, after discovering the Financial Freedom Retire Early Movement (also known as FIRE), Ms. Beck's life is on a different trajectory: her family now lives on half her husband's income, and they invest the rest of the money while Ms. Beck builds a marketing company she hopes to sell. Within the next 15 years, they plan to amass $2 million, stash it in investments, and live on the interest.

It's not about retiring

There's just one unexpected twist: Though Ms. Beck plans to retire long before age 65 or even 60, she has no plans to quit her job.

"For me, it's not so much about retiring, it's about the financial freedom to decide whether I want to work or not," she says. "Frankly, I love working, and I always see myself using my talents and creating, whether it's writing books or speaking. But I want the freedom to not have to do it for money."

About 450 Utahns belong to online groups that cater to individuals who aspire to achieve financial independence and early retirement. While that's clearly a small minority of the population, the FIRE movement is stronger in Utah than in other, more populous states says Chris Mamula, an early retiree who lives in Ogden. The Pittsburg group, Mr. Mamula says, has just under 300 members.

The FIRE movement is all about setting aside funds sufficient enough that adherents can retire as early as their 30 or 40s. And Utah's affordability, combined with its active outdoorsy...

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