We moved from California to Utah for the financial freedom to start our own business, but it wasn't as affordable as we thought. After 3 years, we're ready to move back home. (2023)

  • Ian Hughes and Jai-Yu Fu moved from California to Utah in 2020 seeking new experiences and affordability.
  • They settled in Salt Lake City because of Hughes' job and have since started their own business.
  • The city isn't as affordable as they thought and the couple is moving back to California next month.

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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with couple Ian Hughes, 32, and Jai-yu Fu, 30, about their experiences moving from Santa Rosa, California, to Salt Lake City, Utah in July 2020. The couple is preparing to move back to the West Coast next month. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Ian: I'm born and raised in California and we met going to design school in San Francisco over 10 years ago. We just had our six-year wedding anniversary.

Jai-Yu: I was born and raised in Taipei City in Taiwan. I pretty much spent half my lifetime in Taiwan and then here in the States. So, I have this sort of expat narrative.

Before we moved to Utah, we were living in Santa Rosa, California. The rent at that time —

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Ian: It was $2,300 plus utilities.

My background is in the outdoor industry; Jai-Yu's background is in architectural design. When I was right out of school, there were a lot more outdoor companies in the Bay Area, but they all started leaving to go to Denver or Salt Lake City. There's more of an outdoor vibe there, I guess. So I knew that was going on and anticipated wanting to leave to stay with that crowd.

Jai-Yu: We were just at the point in our life where we didn't feel like being tied down.

Ian: We were ready to try something new, too.

I got an offer with this job in Salt Lake City in March or April of 2020. We were excited.

Jai-Yu: At the same time, we had this dream that we really wanted to start our own business.

We were thinking: Can we go chase this dream? To chase that dream, it involves our own investments. We had to spend our own money to start our own company.

Ian: Part of the reason I wanted to work with this startup is I thought I could learn a lot and then apply it to our own business later on.

We also knew that it was a little less expensive to live in Salt Lake City, so we were kind of excited to be in a position to save a little more.

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Jai-Yu: Well, that's what we thought.

Part of the reason we left Santa Rosa was because we got the impression that Salt Lake City was supposed to be more affordable.

But because there's so much domestic migration, it's definitely affecting Salt Lake City's density and the housing prices. So, the past three years that we've been here, the pricing we're seeing is relatively similar to what it was like in Santa Rosa.

We moved from California to Utah for the financial freedom to start our own business, but it wasn't as affordable as we thought. After 3 years, we're ready to move back home. (1)

Courtesy of Jai-Yu Fu

The couple made the move in July 2020 right in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic

Ian: It was definitely a strange time to move.

Jai-Yu: I didn't really like it because when we first arrived it was a ghost town. COVID was still going on and we couldn't really explore as much as we wished to, or meet people. There wasn't much social life. We were basically just working all the time.

Ian: Most of the people we've met have been through our jobs here. And for the most part, everybody's been really nice and friendly. We're not that great at making friends outside of work, but whenever we've interacted with strangers, everyone's usually pretty nice and respectful.

I think people here definitely assume that because we're from California, we're automatically more well-off.

But we've rented the whole time. When we got here, we lived in a small one-bedroom. Then in the past two years, we've been in a bigger space, a one-plus bedroom.

Both were around $1,600. It's been a little bit more affordable, I guess.

Jai-Yu: Not all the options in Salt Lake City are cheaper, it's just that they do have a wider variety of rental prices, compared to the Bay Area.

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It depends on where you want to live. The neighborhood we're living in is less dense, just because that's where we found the most affordable place. The neighborhood we probably wanted to live in is close to downtown and close to the walkable neighborhoods, instead of the more suburban area we're currently in.

I personally prefer a walkable, urban neighborhood, just because I grew up in Taipei City, which has a 2.6 million population. And Salt Lake City is 200,000.

One of the first impressions I had is that the stores here are very spread out. If I want to go visit a boutique, I have to drive 20 minutes and then hop around different parts of town.

But something I really like about Salt Lake City is there are less cars on the road and less angry, crazy drivers than in the Bay Area. Even though I have to drive 20 minutes to go to the Chinatown store, because I need my Asian groceries.

Ian: There's definitely diversity, but it's more diluted or constrained to the downtown Salt Lake City area, I would say.

Jai-Yu: I rarely see people other than Caucasians walking around. I do get frustrated just because when you have less diversity, that means there's less diversity in restaurant choices and in grocery choices.

Going out to eat at a restaurant, it's pretty much the same as when we were living in Santa Rosa. You can go out and easily spend $60 on a meal. So we try to cook from home.

We moved from California to Utah for the financial freedom to start our own business, but it wasn't as affordable as we thought. After 3 years, we're ready to move back home. (2)

Courtesy of Jai-Yu Fu

The couple quit their jobs last summer to focus full-time on starting their own business

Jai-Yu: We weren't going to stay in Salt Lake City. It was temporary.

Ian: We wanted to get some of the industry experience and then figure out a way to apply it to the business we wanted to start.

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Jai-yu: Last year we were starting to think about moving back. So that's when we took a turn and quit our jobs. We started working full-time on Parapack.

Ian: We are currently making lightweight headwear. We have one product basically out, but we have others planned.

We've definitely learned a lot, which is what we wanted to dive into when we started.

We had to come here to be able to afford to start our own business. I don't think we could have made it this far this quickly in California.

Jai-Yu: It was a great opportunity to push ourselves out of our familiar bubble. Coming out here on our own was a good learning lesson of just chasing our dream and looking at our surroundings from a different perspective.

We will be moving back to Pacifica, California in about a month or so.

Ian: We ended up getting in touch with family and we're going to rent a temporary in-law unit from them.

Jai-Yu: They're giving us a very good deal, and we both will likely get part-time jobs. The combination of this is what's going to help us make it— to move back and have a life and have this dream of creating our own company.

Ian: We're excited to go back and be closer to family. We'll definitely miss the hiking and the outdoorsy types of things you can do here so easily.

Jai-Yu: One of the coolest things about Salt Lake City is its majestic Wasatch mountain range. It just makes you speechless. That's something San Francisco can't beat.

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Why do people move from California to Utah? ›

A lot of people from places like back East and California, they want to get out of the big cities and get somewhere where they can live a more healthy lifestyle.” Another big draw of Utah is the health of our economy, Cutler and Anderton agree.

Is it cheaper to live in California or Utah? ›

Cost of Living in Utah vs. California

Overall the cost of living in California is 32.3% more expensive than Utah, and you don't get the traffic you do in CA!

What is the state income tax in California vs Utah? ›

#2. California to Utah Means Lower Taxes

California tops the list with the highest income tax rate of 13.30%, whereas Utah has a flat income tax rate of 4.95%. Combined State and local sales tax rates for California come in at 8.82%. Utah's combined tax rate is 7.19%.

Is it better to live in California or Utah? ›

Strictly from a financial standpoint, Utah is generally a more advantageous place to live than California. However, that's not the whole story. As one of the world's largest economies, California and its major cities provide immense opportunities – from education and jobs to culture, entertainment, and so on.

Why is Utah so cheap to live? ›

Utah is known for its scenic beauty, and it might seem that it's one of the most expensive places to live in the country. However, this outdoor adventure paradise is actually cheaper than many states in the US. With low energy prices, property taxes, and a low utility index score, Utah has plenty to boast about.

What is a livable income in Utah? ›

Living Wage Calculation for Salt Lake County, Utah
0 Children2 Children
Living Wage$18.06$41.53
Poverty Wage$6.53$13.34
Minimum Wage$7.25$7.25

Are there tax advantages to living in Utah? ›

The state uses a flat tax rate of 4.95% for all income levels and the sales tax rate is 4.85%. Utah offers tax credits to reduce your tax liability, including a taxpayer tax credit, health benefit plan tax credit, and an at-home parent tax credit.

What city in Utah has the lowest cost of living? ›

Cheapest Places to Live in Utah
  • Vernal. The cheapest place to live in Utah is Vernal. ...
  • Roosevelt. Roosevelt is the second most affordable place to live in Utah. ...
  • Sunset. Situated just north of Salt Lake City is Sunset, another of Utah's cheapest places to live. ...
  • Washington Terrace. ...
  • Cedar City. ...
  • Tremonton. ...
  • Brigham City. ...
  • Tooele.
Jan 19, 2023

Is Utah a tax friendly state? ›

Utah also has a flat 4.85 percent corporate income tax. Utah has a 6.10 percent state sales tax rate, a max local sales tax rate of 2.95 percent, and an average combined state and local sales tax rate of 7.19 percent. Utah's tax system ranks 8th overall on our 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index.

What is the most heavily taxed state? ›

The state with the highest taxes is New York. New York is one of the states with highest income tax rates as well as high sales tax rates, high property taxes, and high excise taxes.

Is California the highest taxed state? ›

But in case you're wondering, California eventually has the highest state tax rate in the country, with 13.30% charged on any income over $1 million.

What is Utah most common crime? ›

Larceny-theft is the most prevalent property crime in Utah, making up 78% of all reported property crime—7% higher than the proportion nationally. Burglary is less common in Utah than throughout the country, accounting for 11% of all property crime in the state, versus 14% of all property crime in the US.

What are the disadvantages of living in Utah? ›

Cons of Living in Utah
  • Weather. The southern half of the state is called the high desert, and in summer it can get very hot. ...
  • High taxes. Businesses get tax breaks, and that helps the economy. ...
  • Not much diversity. ...
  • Housing costs. ...
  • Remote areas. ...
  • Outdated alcohol laws. ...
  • Fast drivers. ...
  • Public transportation.

Why are a lot of people moving to Utah? ›

Utah is home to five national parks and 43 state parks, many of which are right around Salt Lake City. Lots of people moving to Utah consider the statewide scenery and abundant natural beauty to be just as enticing and attractive as the strong economy and moderate cost of living.

Where are most Californians moving to? ›

In 2021, about 360,000 people relocated from California to another state–or, in some cases, country.
The Allied report referenced above says the top five destination cities for Los Angeles area residents moving out of state are:
  • Dallas, TX.
  • Austin-San Marcos, TX.
  • Chicago, IL.
  • Atlanta, GA.
  • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA.
Apr 26, 2023

Where are people from Utah moving to? ›

1 was California, which fell to No. 4 in the latest estimates, with 8,504 Utahns moving there. Others top 10 destinations for Utahns who moved in 2019 included: Arizona, 8,917; Idaho, 7,371; Nevada, 6,593; Washington, 5,440; Oregon, 3,684; Florida, 3,433; Ohio, 2,629; and Colorado, 2,458.

Are a lot of Californians moving to Utah? ›

Utah saw the highest percentage of population growth among all states from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census data. California is the biggest source of people moving into Utah, studies have shown. In 2018, there were some 18,000 Californians who moved to the Beehive State.

What is Utah's minimum wage? ›

The minimum wage in Utah is $7.25 per hour.

Minors under the age of 18 must be paid minimum wage; however, and employer may pay a minor $4.25 per hour during the first 90 days of their employment.

Where is the cheapest place to buy a house in Utah? ›

Best overall: Roy

Located about half an hour north of Salt Lake City, Roy tops our list of the most affordable cities. With a relatively low PTI and lower-than-average rent prices, Roy is a good option for both home buyers and renters.

How does Utah have so much money? ›

The economy of Utah is a diversified economy covering industries such as tourism, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, information technology, finance, and petroleum production. The majority of Utah's gross state product is produced along the Wasatch Front, containing the state capital Salt Lake City.

What is middle class income for Utah? ›

Pew explains that a middle income equals an annual household income of $52,000 to $156,000 for a family of three, based on 2020 dollars.

How much is 70k a year in Utah? ›

If you make $70,000 a year living in the region of Utah, USA, you will be taxed $16,918. That means that your net pay will be $53,082 per year, or $4,424 per month. Your average tax rate is 24.2% and your marginal tax rate is 34.5%.

What is the average hourly rate in Utah? ›

$13.45 is the 25th percentile. Wages below this are outliers. $27.11 is the 75th percentile. Wages above this are outliers.

Why are people moving out of Utah? ›

While the Beehive State saw an influx of newcomers (including remote workers) in 2020 partly due to the pandemic, many people are now leaving the northern Salt Lake City area as house prices and rents increase due to factors including gentrification and density.

Why are houses so expensive in Utah? ›

Why Are Home Prices So High in Utah? Utah boasts the nation's strongest pace of job growth, along with rock-bottom unemployment, ultra-low mortgage rates, few mortgage delinquencies, and low state and local taxes.

What is Utah's tax slab? ›

Tax Rates
Date RangeTax Rate
January 1, 2022 – current4.85% or .0485
January 1, 2018 – December 31, 20214.95% or .0495
January 1, 2008 – December 31, 20175% or .05
Tax years prior to 2008Contact us for assistance

What state is moving to Utah the most? ›

States sending the most people to Utah
  • #8. Illinois. ...
  • #7. Nevada. ...
  • #6. Washington. ...
  • #5. Texas. ...
  • #4. Arizona. - Moved from Arizona to Utah in 2019: 6,301. ...
  • #3. Idaho. - Moved from Idaho to Utah in 2019: 6,752. ...
  • #2. Colorado. - Moved from Colorado to Utah in 2019: 7,856. ...
  • #1. California. - Moved from California to Utah in 2019: 17,821.
Jul 10, 2022

Where do millionaires live in Utah? ›

Richest Cities in Utah
1Park CitySummit County, Wasatch County
2HighlandUtah County
3Fruit HeightsDavis County
4AlpineUtah County
6 more rows

What city in Utah has the highest poverty rate? ›

The census reveals Provo has the highest poverty rate in the state at 31 percent. That's nearly one in three people living below the poverty line there.

Who is tax exempt in Utah? ›

Utah nonprofit corporations can obtain an exemption on state sales tax if they have been granted 501c3 status by the federal government. To apply for the state exemption, nonprofits need to complete and submit Form TC-160 and a copy of the IRS' Letter of Determination to the Utah State Tax Commission.

Is Utah a business friendly state? ›

Utah ranked as the best state for businesses for the 16th straight year in an annual conservative economic forecast this week, with New York ranking dead last.

Is Utah good for retirement? ›

Utah is a state that has something for all types of retirees. Its thriving metropolitan areas in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George host exciting cultures. Utah also has striking natural scenery for active adults who want to reconnect with nature during retirement.

Is it better to live in a state with no income tax? ›

While you might not have to pay state income tax, your overall tax bill actually might end up being higher, depending on your lifestyle. If you don't own property and you use public transportation, for example, your tax bill likely will be significantly lower.

What state has cheapest property tax? ›

All of the data below comes from the Census Bureau's 2021 1-year American Community Survey (ACS) Estimates. Hawaii has the lowest property tax rate in the U.S. at 0.27%. The Aloha state has a home median value of $722,500.

Who pays the most taxes rich or poor? ›

The average federal income tax rate was 13.6% in 2020, according to a January analysis from the Tax Foundation. But the top 1% of earners paid an average rate of about 26%, while the bottom half of taxpayers had an overall rate of 3.1%, the analysis found.

Who pays most of California income tax? ›

The richest 1% of California tax filers pay the largest share of their income in state and local taxes (12.3%), but the 20% of filers with the lowest incomes pay the next highest share (11.4%).

Why is California state tax so high? ›

With high-income tax rates in the Golden State, some residents wonder what the money is used for. Generally, tax money is used to pay for public primary education, parks, roads, and public safety, according to the state's Legislative Analyst's Office. Income tax is used to fund the state's budget.

Which president had the highest tax rate? ›

Herbert Hoover, the president who's best known for fumbling America's economic policy during the start of the Great Depression, was also one of the country's most prolific tax raisers. The Revenue Act of 1932 raised the top rate from 25% to 63%, but no income bracket was spared.

What is the #1 most violent city in the US? ›

Memphis, Tennessee

The most dangerous city in the USA is Memphis, Tennessee. With a population of 628,127, Memphis has a crime rate that is 237% higher than the national average. Memphis has 7,913 crimes per 100,000 people, with an exceptionally high violent crime rate.

What state is number 1 in crime? ›

1. Alaska. The most dangerous state in the USA is Alaska, as it has the highest combined violent and property crime rate out of any state. Out of a population of 736,081, Alaska's crime rate was 32.14 per 1,000 people in 2022, making it the state with the highest crime rate.

What to avoid in Utah? ›

10 Things You Should Never Do In Utah
  • Never hike in a remote place alone. ...
  • Don't ski past the boundary ropes at the resort. ...
  • Avoid IKEA on a Tuesday, at all costs. ...
  • You'll definitely regret caving in to those out-of-town cousins who insist on trying to float in the Great Salt Lake during their visit in May.
Jan 29, 2017

What is the main reason for people to move to Utah? ›

The cost of living in Utah is less expensive than the national average in the United States. Many commodities and services cost less in Utah than in the United States overall. The State of Utah as the 24th highest cost of living overall. It is more expensive to live in urban areas than rural areas in the United States.

Why do most people come to Utah? ›

Some of the best schools and colleges are in Utah. It's no secret that Utah is regarded as one of the most beautiful states for its natural beauty. Mountains, lakes, canyons, and red rock are just a few of the state's high points. Many people come just for the activities Utah has to offer.

What are the benefits of moving to Utah? ›

Is Utah a good place to live? Yes, based on the great job market, stellar economy, and amazing access to nature/recreation, Utah is among the best places to live in the US.


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