This Woman Overcame Her Money Issues and Saved $1 Million by Age 33

portrait of Belinda Rosenblum
Belinda Rosenblum decided to become a personal finance coach after leaving a lucrative career in corporate accounting. Photo courtesy of Belinda Rosenblum

When Belinda Rosenblum was a kid, she thought money caused more problems than it solved.  

She remembers her parents fighting, often about money, before they divorced when she was 7.

“What I concluded at the time was that money was pain for me,” she said. “The more money I make, the more pain I’ll be bringing into my life.”

Despite that fear, Rosenblum always had a knack for numbers. In her first job as a teenager in New York, she provided bookkeeping services for a local security company. She went on to study accounting in college, get her CPA and begin a career in corporate accounting and finance.

But when Rosenblum was 21, her father had a stroke, and she found herself serving as financial manager for her family.

“All my friends were partying and going out, and I was taking care of him in the hospital,” she said.

Her dad didn’t keep tidy records. She had to patch together his financial story, managing expenses for his home and medical treatment while taking care of her own finances.

“Once I felt like he was stable and I Band-Aided things together with our personal finances, I focused back on work,” she said.

But Rosenblum had a few more money lessons to learn before she would eventually launch her financial coaching business, Own Your Money.

Running Her Career, but Hiding From Her Money

Frequent business trips meant Rosenblum would return home to piles of mail that she couldn’t bear to open on her brief weekend breaks.

“I would just bring it home and put it on any free surface,” she said. “The desk, the table, the basket.” And it wasn’t just her own bills and statements in those piles — she wasn’t dealing with her dad’s mail, either.

She finally collected all the piles into one place after a conversation with her sister, who was concerned about Rosenblum’s well-being with such a busy schedule. But overwhelmed with guilt and shame, she couldn’t bring herself to open and sort them. At 28, she worried what people would think of her if they found out. “I’m an accountant for goodness sake,” she thought.

Paralyzed by panic, she called her friend, Annette, for help. Annette came over that weekend and started opening bills, asking Rosenblum which pile to put them in, which to pay and which to file. She decided that financial independence didn’t mean she had to go at it alone.

It took six months for Rosenblum to get organized and develop a system where she could easily manage her own and her dad’s finances, even when she was on the road.

Forging Her Own Path

Rosenblum went on to manage her six-figure salary so well that she saved up her first $1 million by the time she was 33.

But after she spent 15 years in corporate accounting and finance, a company restructuring in spring 2007 left her figuring out what was next for her career.

First, she took her handsome buyout severance package and traveled to India and Costa Rica. She thought she’d be able to find a job quickly, but none of the offers she received in corporate finance felt quite right.

She had several offers to be a financial adviser, but the idea didn’t sit well with her. Talking with the women in her life about their approaches to money exposed the flaw in that plan.  

“When I told them I was going to be an adviser, it was almost like they clutched their purse tighter,” she said. “Like somehow I was going to take their money or something, or like try and invest them, or try and change them.”

Instead, Rosenblum became more interested in people’s relationships with money — like how they could approach money in a way that felt good, rather than scary and overwhelming or filled with shame, she said.

So she decided to strike out on her own as a financial coach.

When Rosenblum planned her first two-day personal finance workshop in December 2007, she booked a 200-person room at the prestigious John Hancock Center in Boston.

Participants would pay $199 for the workshop and a private coaching session. If they registered at least two days in advance, they could bring a friend for free.

But the registrations didn’t exactly roll in on their own. Rosenblum kept adjusting her reservation: a room for 100 people, then 50, then 30.

The final attendance: 12.

Finding Financial Independence, Together

Those 12 audience members became the foundation for Rosenblum’s financial coaching business.

Just a few months after her first weekend workshop, the economy crashed into recession. But by then, she had already created a framework to help people deal with their financial baggage, move through their mental roadblocks and take action toward meeting their money goals.

So she pressed forward.

She built out in-person training programs before expanding to online courses and a series of books for self-paced work. Since she started Own Your Money, she’s gotten married and had two children. Her husband now works on running Own Your Money alongside Rosenblum.

Her clients range from their mid-20s to early 70s, she says. Changing their mindset, she said, is often the biggest roadblock to helping people make progress managing their money.

“We’re not born knowing money, and it’s amazing how much pressure we put on ourselves that by osmosis we should have figured it out,” she said. “We collect information, but not necessarily the best or right things.”

She notices that many of her clients drew conclusions about money around the ages of 6 to 10, much like she did when she had her own revelation when her parents fought over money. Then, “at 36, 46 or 56, we’re still holding on to what happened when we were 6.”

She focuses on helping people examine what she calls their money stories, and on giving them a nonjudgmental space to talk about their challenges. She hosts private Facebook groups where clients and course participants can share their wins. Sometimes, it’s easier for a stranger to be happy for you when you get a big raise than it is for someone close to you, Rosenblum said.

“I remind them that we’re all here for them, that they’re not alone,” she said. “Maybe you’ve done it alone for literally 60 years, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.”

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer and on-air analyst at the Penny Hoarder.