If you can't beat 'em, serve 'em.
A growing number of New Yorkers are making their livings by catering to people who are "that kind of rich."
The broadly defined "service" sector now constitutes 95.2% of all jobs in New York City, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And some of those jobs represent people serving only or mostly wealthy people as exercise and pet concierges, private chefs, "energy healers," butlers, chauffeurs and commercial pilots.
"I come and go. I'm not on staff: I'm not salaried," explained Nancy Freedman, "The Taskmistress," who charges around $150 an hour for everything from party planning to assembling adoption paperwork, braiding the tails of show horses and whatever else the affluent need done, short of child care.
"One woman had an issue with a diamond ring -- the setting got caught on something and the (two carat) diamond came out," so Freedman, who lives in Greenwich Village, researched and found the best repair person.
Tanja Aalto, an ex-investment banker who lives in TriBeCa and is now writing a novel, first hired the 50-something Freedman to help with an apartment renovation because "my work schedule was hectic."
Freedman's freelance duties have included AC maintenance and repair, coordinating donations and arrangements with consignment shops, researching "the right breeder for a Rottweiler puppy and, most recently, facilitating the far overdue conversion of my son's room" to better reflect the tastes of a nine-year-old, Aalto said.
An increasingly popular request is help with the odious task of medical insurance claims. "I'm a medical insurance expert," said Freedman, who described herself as both a project manager and "Ray Donovan without the gun."
Precise quantification of such gigs is elusive, in part because many are informal or contract labor and because many specific categories aren't defined in data collection efforts. But an analysis by WealthInsight and Spears released last July revealed that 1 in 25 New Yorkers had a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding the value of their primary residence. It's also clear that many entrepreneurially inclined New Yorkers have figured out symbiotic niches to serve them.
The super wealthy have coteries of support staff to save and maximize their time and ease their lives in countless ways.
"The increase in butlers has been steady for the past 25 years, with a real surge the past five years," said Robert Wennekes, chairman of the International Butler Academy in the Netherlands.
Enrollment (from New Yorkers and others) is also brisk because starting salaries are "around $50,000 to $60,000." Demand for butlers in NYC is "higher than most other major cities," with a few exceptions, such as Riyadh, Moscow, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, added Wennekes, noting that the PBS series "Downton Abbey," which features story lines of footmen and ladies maids as well as the landed gentry, has helped drive the trend for punctilious household help.
"We have an increasing number of rich people, while more and more middle class people are falling into the ranks of the poor," said Stanley Aronowitz, distinguished professor of sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. While such jobs may seem to command high salaries, most are "precarious and contingent," lack benefits such as medical insurance and pensions, and will be prone to evaporation when the stock market heads south, Aronowitz warned.
Lena Falth, a Reiki master, "life guide" and "personal healer" to entertainers, fashion moguls and "thought leaders," has personal sessions that hover around $350 an hour. In what ways do the wealthy need guidance and healing?
Her clients "are overwhelmed with making decisions ... They have a lot of pressure to achieve because so many people are dependent on them," and long "to find calm in the chaos," she explained.
Falth, who is in her 50s and lives in Westchester, usually travels to her clients' homes to hear their woes, and work with them on stress-relieving techniques involving meditation, "breath work," and self-care.
However, they have also taken her along to London, Paris and Miami.
"It's nice to help people and help people overcome their challenges -- it's very gratifying," Falth said. And no, she won't tell you their names: The rich prize discretion.
"That's very confidential," she said, sounding appalled.
SIN Workouts, an exercise concierge service, not only curates and selects the ideal exercise classes for its clients but takes then to their worksouts in a premium car service, selects and sets up appropriate weights and equipment, disposes of their sweaty clothes afterward and stands by with their "preordered workout" refreshments.
SIN's personal trainers are but a cog in the personal services wheel. The affluent are "used to getting the best of the best on a daily basis," said co-founder Vanessa Martin, 30. "It's incredibly common now for them to have a pet concierge on staff -- like a nanny for pets. That blew my mind," she said.
They also have full-time nannies, even if they are not employed themselves (another surprise for Martin, who grew up close to her mother on a working farm upstate), personal physicians who work in concert with personal chefs and meal delivery services to ensure they get ideal nutrition, and "interior designers and closet organizers -- they redesign everything so (closets can accommodate) their new fitness wardrobes." And yes, said Martin, who lives in Williamsburg, their hair stylists come to the gym to give them a blow out after their shower.
But why do rich people need someone else to help them exercise and squire around their fresh-squeezed juices?
They may have money, but embarking on a new activity in gym clothes "releases a sense of vulnerability they're not used to experiencing," when out of their Supreme Bespoke suit or couture clothes, Martin explained.
Ian Phillips, owner of SeeSpotRunNYC.com, a dog training and pet sitting service on the Upper West Side, once had a wealthy woman involved in animal rescue pay him $6,000 to rehabilitate an aggressive pit bull. When training was complete, she then adopted the dog out.
"My clients are very philanthropic: They want to do the right thing," said Phillips. While some people pay to give their dogs human company all day long, dog walking has become democratized, said Phillips. Dog walkers now are "an evil necessity. To live in this town, you need to work all the time. You have to hire me to do what you should be doing. I'm an unfortunate problem," Phillips said.
Many people who labor on behalf of the very rich say they provide pro bono or reduced fee work for those who wouldn't be able to afford their services otherwise. Working for wealthy people has its benefits but Freedman, at least, wishes we could go back to a simpler, more affordable time. Gentrification, she said "is destroying New York City. It's just not affordable any more. You need to be rich to live here."