Guest Blogger Kemener Whalen – It’s All About the Balance Sheet, Not the Benjamins

The beauty of Adam Hergenrother Companies is the collaboration, the exchange of ideas, and our ability to challenge each other’s perspectives and thinking so that we all grow. Last week, BlackRock Construction’s VP of Development took over the blog, and this week, our CFO, Kemener Whalen, is chiming in with a few thoughts of his own on being rich vs. being wealthy. Take it away, Kem! 

Everyone wants to make money.  Most of us want to make a lot of it.  We say things like “I want to be rich” or “I want to be a millionaire (or billionaire)”, but how often do we think about what that means?  Most people probably don’t define what that means, and rarely give it any thought.  People recognize that to grow personally and professionally they must set goals.  Setting a goal of “being rich” without defining (or understanding) what that means is not goal setting – it is simply wishing to be rich.  As has been said many times “a goal without a plan is a wish”.  The same can be said of an undefined goal – it is nothing more than a wish – undefined and unachievable.  How many people say “I wish I was rich”?  At some point in our lives we have likely all said it – but those of us who define what that means, and make a plan to MAKE IT HAPPEN are the ones who get there.

Do we really understand what we are saying when we make a goal of being rich?  For most people that answer is “No”.  But not for me.  I DON’T WANT TO BE RICH. I want to be WEALTHY.  I know the difference – or at least have defined the difference for myself personally.  In order to set, strategize, execute, and ultimately achieve a goal we need to define for ourselves what that means.  Let’s explore what being rich vs. being wealthy means (to me).

Being Rich

There is nothing wrong with being rich, but it’s not my goal. It’s definable. It’s achievable.  It’s measurable.  Being rich provides the opportunity to live an amazing life.  Each of us has his/her own lifestyle choices.  But all of us want to do the things we like to do as frequently as we can.  Being rich means you can afford to live the life you want to lead.  You can write a check, use the AMEX black card, pull out a wad of $100s for anything.  Dinners, clothes, trips, jewelry – there is no limit.  This is how I define being rich – when you don’t have to worry about the cost of doing, eating, drinking, buying or wearing the things that you want. Your available cash does not restrict. In essence your personal Profit and Loss Statement (have I mentioned I am the CFO of one of the subsidiaries of Adam Hergenrother Companies?) is very robust.  Sounds pretty amazing, right? It is, without question. So why is it not my goal? Being rich means you are only as good as your last paycheck. Being rich means if the “music stops” – so does your lifestyle. Being rich means working hard for your money, instead of your money working hard for you. Being rich doesn’t give you freedom. Being rich restricts your freedom. You are tied to your work. Tied to your personal P&L. Tied to the performance of the industry you work. Tied to market forces beyond your control. You become a slave to your job, your team (if you own a business), or whoever it is that signs your paycheck (if you don’t own a business). You aren’t free. You can buy anything – the big house, the new car, but you end up working to pay for those things. It creates a perpetual cycle of needing to earn more to buy more (because your new car stops being new after a few years) – needing to work harder and longer. So while being rich provides for an amazing lifestyle, it does not provide the freedom from adverse outside impacts nor does it provide freedom and control over your time (time is one of the most underappreciated and undervalued assets – but that is a blog for the future). Being rich does not let you take a month off, it does not let you stop working – being rich ties your bank account to your job. Your bank account may be huge – but without your job or business where would that leave your bank account?

Being Wealthy

Being wealthy looks very much like being rich. You can buy anything, do anything, eat or drink anything, or travel anywhere. So what’s the difference? Being wealthy means you are not tied to your paycheck, commission check, or any other check you receive for working. You aren’t beholden to a boss, a team, clients or anyone else. You are free to use your time as you wish.  You are free to have the material items that being rich affords, but you are also free to enjoy them anytime (even all the time). When you are wealthy if the “music stopped” there would be no adverse impact on your lifestyle. Wealth isn’t measured by a personal P&L –  its measured by assets – your personal Balance Sheet (remember I’m a CFO). When you are rich your personal Balance Sheet has one account – your bank account.  When you are wealthy your personal balance sheet is robust, diversified, and healthy. In essence your balance sheet has non-cash assets. What does this mean? It means your cash is working for you, and will reward you over time. You worked hard to earn your cash – make sure it works as hard for you as you worked for it. Cash is great, but cash is not a great investment. Rather use your cash to invest to build your personal wealth. Use your cash to invest in passive income generators. Passive income is the secret to building wealth. Reinvest that passively earned income to earn even more. Wealth compounds. Cash gets spent. Wealth is generational; real estate assets, stocks, bonds, precious metals, and various alternative investment asset classes can (and should be passed on). Being rich you can live a massive life, but are you setting up your great-grand-kids for a head start?  Being wealthy gives you the ability to create a legacy. Being wealthy is freedom to control your time. Being wealthy breaks the ties to market risk, to time in your job, and to factors out of your control.

So what’s the difference?  Freedom.  Both allow you the freedom to spend.  But being wealthy allows you the freedom over your time. When you are rich you must give your time to clients, staff, vendors, business partners. When you are wealthy you are free to use your time as you wish. You are free to live your life when you want to live it – not just during down time at the office. Being rich gives you the freedom to buy things, being wealthy gives you that same privilege, but it also gives you the freedom of your time and the ability to create a legacy.  So, how do you do it? Read my next blog!


Kemener, CFO at BlackRock Construction, uses his passion, energy, and analytical mindset, to bring tremendous value to people, projects, and companies on a daily basis. He particularly enjoys helping people recognize and achieve their true potential. Kemener’s experiences in commercial finance, collaboratively working to grow and manage a nearly $100 million portfolio, serve as a tremendous asset for both investors and investments.

Kemener lives in Essex, Vermont with his beautiful wife and two children. When not furthering the vision of BlackRock Construction, he spends time with his family, as well as enjoys time on picturesque Lake Champlain.

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