In an age of tv reality shows and tell-all best-selling books such as The Nanny Diaries, more people are interested in other people's business -- and the subjects don't have to be celebrities. That might give you pause if you employ a babysitter, housekeeper, handyman, executive assistant, or someone else involved intimately with your family, especially if one of them has literary aspirations or loose lips. "These employees can set themselves up as experts and do very damaging mischaracterizations of their employers that are difficult to refute," says Paul LiCalsi, an intellectual property partner at the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in New York City.
What to do? As a condition of employment, have the service provider sign a privacy agreement. These clearly written contracts require an employee to refrain from revealing, exploiting, or publishing any information about an employer while on the job or after leaving it. You'll pay for about an hour of a lawyer's time, or a few hundred dollars, to get one of these agreements drafted. But that's a small price for making sure your family's personal business stays private. Pack your tunes in JanSport's Live Wire Euphonic backpack ($100 at ebags.com). It has the usual side pocket for your mp3 or cd player. But built into the shoulder straps are stereo earbuds and a volume control knob, plus sliding tabs that pull the head-phones and cords inside when you're done listening. What are the wages of sin? Not much. Last August, Mutuals.com launched the no-load "politically incorrect" Vice Fund to invest in "sin" stocks: tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and weapons. Vice is a nice gimmick, but there's nothing sexy about the fund's returns. Since its inception through Mar. 24, the fund lost 13.8%, vs. a 4.6% decline in the S&P 500.