Dear Moneyist,

I pay my gardener $100 per month. He or one of his employees comes once a week on Mondays, and does a pretty good job. When the weather is rainy, he does not come until it is dry, so sometimes there is a week where he does not service my lawn.

The Moneyist:My sister became my late father’s power of attorney, took out a reverse mortgage on his home, and drained his equity. What can I do?

There have been 1 or 2 times over the past couple years where he did not come, and for no apparent reason. He typically comes when I’m working, and he often sends an employee, so I don’t have a chance to ask why he didn’t come.

Should I still pay the $100 for a month where he misses a week because of rain? What about for the week he didn’t show? Sometimes, a month has 5 Mondays instead of 4. Should I calculate the number of times he comes and work out his monthly pay depending on the results of that?

What are the ethics of paying for these missed weeks of service?



Dear Gardenee,

It’s your gardener’s responsibility to show up, but it’s your responsibility to set the boundaries. I assume he has a cellphone, so you can call him and lay out what your expectations and needs are for this relationship. If he doesn’t meet them, then you have a reference point for a follow-up conversation. For instance, if he doesn’t show up due to rain, ask him to come at a different time. You can show him goodwill, but he should also show you equal consideration.

If he does a good job, and this arrangement has been working for several years, and you feel happy with it overall, there is no need to dock his pay for a missed day here or there, especially if he works 5 Mondays during some months instead of 4. Chalk it up to goodwill, and a job well done. I would, however, ask him to let you know ahead of time, if he is not going to show. Tip him an extra $100 at the holidays, and give him feedback on a job well done during the year.

Take some time to get to know him. Everyone has a story, and it is important to connect with those who work for and with you. He will appreciate it, you will have a greater understanding of him, and it will ultimately help your professional relationship. There are so many domestic staff who come and go while their employers are at work, and they are virtually invisible to those who employ them. For him, you will no longer just represent a garden that needs tending.

The Moneyist:My wife and I have 3 kids. I also have 3 kids from a previous marriage. How should we split our house among these 6 children?

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected]. By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch.

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