The Consumer's Guide to
TOP PROS IN 50 FIELDS SHOW YOU
HOW TO HIRE THE BEST
FROM ACCOUNTANTS TO VETERINARIANS
Personal services are booming in America, and it’s easy to see why. Americans are working longer hours, and they would rather spend their precious time off enjoy- Ping leisure activities than doing chores they can hire someone else to do. This is especially true of married career women,some of whom have a hard time convincing their hus- bands that household work should be evenly shared. While the do-it-yourself spirit is still alive and well in America, there are plenty of services that any one of us can’t do for ourselves—because we lack the neces- sary physical skill or sophisticated knowledge—or we don’t want to do them—because we lack interest. That’s why some folks do their own home improvements but wouldn’t think of preparing their income taxes, and vice versa. Others love managing their own investments but wouldn’t dream of planning their daughter’s wedding, and vice versa. Some services are necessities in life, regardless of income or lifestyle. If you have children and need to work, then finding the best child care you can afford is imperative. If a loved one dies, you will need mortuary services. And, from birth to death, you will probably need the services of a variety of physicians. But economists have long noted that, as personal income rises, people spend relatively less on things and a lot more on services. And this effect is magnified by a feeling that one’s free time is more precious than money. Over the past 20 years, well-educated Americans have enjoyed a strong surge in personal income, and this has been especially true of two-income, dual-career households. These folks have plenty of money to pay for services, and because of the time pressures on their lives, plenty of incentive, too. Personal services that were, a generation or two ago, the sole privilege of rich people—lawn care, catering, fitness training, house cleaning, interior design, investment counsel and much more—are now com- mon in upper-middle-class homes. Even personal chefs, the ultimate luxury of the super-rich, are being hired by hundreds of busy executives. These are boom times, too, for new kinds of per- sonal services that hardly existed a generation or two ago—practitioners of alternative medicine, personal org anizers, image consultants, and career coaches, to name a few. Author has come to your rescue. She had the wonderful idea to pick the brains of top professionals in 50 different fields of personal service—everything from accounting and acupunc- ture to landscaping, auto repair, and music instruc- tion. She asked her experts to describe what excellence looks like in their particular service sector, as well as the pitfalls that unwary consumers should avoid. These insiders shared their experience and judgment with her, and now you are the beneficiary. Not only does coach you on how to be a smart consumer of virtually every important kind of service, but she also gives you rich resources for finding the providers who will fill your needs—associations, di- rectories, periodicals, Web sites, and more. We’ve been providing this kind of guidance to the readers of Kiplinger’s Personal Financemagazine for many years, and now we’re pleased to bring you this manual packed with good advice. Top-flight service providers can be found virtually everywhere, from big cities to small towns. And due to the magic of e-mail and the Internet, you can even engage a far-away pro- fessional for services that don’t always require being on site and face-to-face—for example, certain kinds of legal advice, investment counsel, career and recruiting help, and so on.