What It’s Like to Be a Personal Assistant to the Rich and Famous

"I’ve worked for some people and felt like I was helping make the world a worse place."

By Amy Cray, as told to Maya Mirsky from The Billfold
Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine May 2014

personal assistant illustrationSilja Goetz for Reader’s Digest

Loyalty is a big part of what my clients look for in an assistant. You cannot have someone in this position who doesn’t come with incredible recommendations, because she knows more about your investments than you do. She is managing your nannies or the people working on your house. You’re placing her in control of everything in your life.

My clients have ranged from Hollywood screenwriters to surgeons and entrepreneurs. Now I work for a famous writer in San Francisco. I carry my clients’ credit cards and purchase all sorts of things on their behalf. It’s normal for me to charge $6,000 or write a check for $400,000 and not even think about it. My boss and I will talk about holiday bonuses for the staff, and I’ll say, “How much did we give the housekeeper last year?” Later I’ll think, Oh my god, it’s crazy that that’s a normal thing for me to ask. The spending thing is more confusing for my family than for me.

I come home with these crazy 
experiences: I took a new $90,000 BMW out for a spin. My family is kind of like, “What is this life that you live?” My daughter will say, “Why did they get to go to London over spring break, and we went to Nana’s house?” But I think she understands the concept that these kids live a different life from the one we do. She also knows that they aren’t any happier than we are. In fact, I would say my clients are usually less happy than anyone I know in my income bracket.

Don’t get me wrong—I can see the perks of throwing money at something. But I’m never jealous of it. Ultimately, that ability doesn’t outweigh the benefit of having time with the people who love you for you, not because you’re famous.

My yearly salary is in the $80,000 to $125,000 range, plus health, retirement, and bonuses. My wife, who works in nonprofit to support homeless and low-income families, makes less. We always say we actually do the same job. But she does it for people with no money and no homes. I’ve worked for some people and felt like I was helping make the world a worse place. I felt guilty about that. A lot of my job is doing frivolous and superfluous tasks like “Oh, can you book the tickets to Dubai?” My wife and I feel that between her job and mine, it’s a comfortable equality for our family. She’s working to “save the people.” It evens out.

  • Your Comments

    • Interested reader!

      I’d take the trip to Nana’s house anytime over the trip to London. What could be more fun than having quality time with loving grandparentsand doing some activities such as baking or doing a puzzle together? I’m glad to hear that you realize that your clients aren’t any happier than you are and maybe less so.