The Super Rich Are Hoarding Cash


Dr. Marie Hayag, owner of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics, traded Botox for caviar during Covid. Vital Agibalow

  • Because of the pandemic, wealthy Americans are holding on tight to their cash and instead opting for luxury barters.
  • One NYC lawyer waived his $20,000 fee in exchange for a two-week visit to his client’s Montauk estate so he and his family could escape the city.
  • In order to escape lockdown in NYC, one artist traded his $30,000 painting for a Labor Day weekend stay at a collector’s Adirondack home.
  • This summer, a top Fifth Avenue dermatologist was given $5,000 worth of caviar to make a Sunday Hamptons house call.
  • The owner of celeb-favorite catering company, Elegant Affairs, waived her $20,000 party fee for six chartered rides on a client’s yacht so she and her family could get out on the water during Covid.
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When Covid-19 struck New York, some fled, others stocked up and one 40 year-old Hamptonite called his lawyer.

“He saw what was happening with the pandemic and he said to me, ‘It’s time to make a plan for my estate,'” said NYC attorney Sal Strazzullo.

“He needed a trust, powers of attorney, a will, a lot of documentation. At the same time, he had just been furloughed. He was moving to a new home in Beacon, N.Y. The liquidity wasn’t there.”

That’s when Strazzullo, who had been quarantined with his wife and children in Tribeca, proposed an elegant solution. He would wave his $20,000 fee in exchange for a two week stay at his client’s oceanfront home in Montauk.

Instead of charging his $20,000 fee, attorney Sal Strazzullo, took payment in the form of a two-week stay at his client’s Montauk mansion. Courtesy of Sal Strazzullo/Rachel Marks


“I thought, ‘Why not just trade?” said Stazzullo, who has been trying to get his family out of the city on the weekends since the virus hit.

“I loved the house because wear-and-tear is included. I have three kids all under five and you can see a scratch on the floor a mile away in some of these mansions.”

With people less willing to part with cash during the pandemic, high-end barters are on the rise

Even before Covid disrupted the lives of the rich and powerful, high-end bartering was already commonplace. Looking to gain admission to a private school? Woo the board members with Knicks tickets. Want a facelift without the five-figure price tag? Trade it for a splashy piece of art. Nowadays, with the pandemic in full swing, people want to hold on a little tighter to their cash.

“There is a tremendous uncertainty and virus fear that is lingering, and that is restraining people’s desire to go out and spend as they normally would,” Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, told CNBC in May. Which means upscale trades are being made like never before. Especially if there’s a second (or third or fourth home) to work with.

When the owner of a $30 million modern estate in Southampton got a little stir crazy this summer, he reached out to his friend, Paulo Wei.

Wei, who has been quarantined in Manhattan, is the owner of Our Kitchen, an East Village restaurant and 43-acre farm-to-table concept in upstate New York.

Paulo Wei traded a stay at his farm for a vacation at a friend’s Hamptons home. Judy Yang


They brokered a deal.

In exchange for a weekend stay at the six-bedroom oceanfront house in Southampton, Wei, 25, let his friend stay at his fully staffed farm, where the pal received gardening and cooking lessons with the resident chef.

“He got to learn everything,” says Wei. “What vegetables are in season; how to season and ferment…traditional techniques. It’s an incredible cultural experience for my friend…it’s sort of like Blue Hill for Asian food. And I absolutely love being by the water in Southampton.”

Artists have been trading five and six-figure artworks for everything from water-front homes to private jets

Artist Linjie Deng had spent 150 days in his New York apartment when he traded his way up to a  luxury waterfront escape.

“A collector at the Hamptons Virtual Art Fair reached out to purchase one of my paintings,” said Deng, who was asking $20,000 for the artwork titled, “News.”

“He agreed to buy it, but another one of my paintings had caught his eye, too. He said, ‘Look I own a house on Lake George. I’ll let you use over Labor Day weekend in exchange for the second work of art,'” recalled Deng.

Artist Linjie Deng traded his $30,000 painting, Moon Catcher, for a weekend stay in the Adirondacks Linjie Deng for Hamptons Digital Art Fair.


Deng says that he jumped at the chance to trade his $30,000 painting, “Moon Catcher,” for an escape at the collector’s four-bedroom Adirondack spread, complete with a motorboat, kayaks, and paddle boards.

Spanish artist Domingo Zapata says bartering art for luxury amenities is a tale as old as time.

“I’ve traded paintings for a house in Sag Harbor and for hours in a private jet,” Zapata said. “I did a painting of a plane that looked a little bit like a Roy Lichtenstein, but in a more contemporary graffiti style. I used the hours to fly with my kids from L.A. to Miami.”

Zapata has also taken partial payment for his art in the form of caviar — accepting $6,000 worth of Ikraa against a $30,000 acrylic.

One Fifth Avenue dermatologist made a special Covid Hamptons house call after she was paid in caviar

Dr. Marie Hayag, owner of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics, admits she’s also been tempted by pricey tins during Covid.

Last month, a client convinced her to make a special house call in the Hamptons by offering up 500 grams of top-of-the-line Petrossian caviar.

Dr. Marie Hayag, a NYC-based dermatologist, traded a Hamptons Botox house call for 500 grams of caviar. Getty Images/Jean-Blaise Hall


“All my patients are in the Hamptons right now because of Covid,” says Hayag. “So I go out there. But this patient was having a sort of ‘birthday Botox beauty bash’ and wanted me to give up my Sunday to come. That’s when she offered me $5,000 worth of caviar. How could I say no to that? I’m even threw in some syringes of filler.”

Rather than accept $20,000 in cash, a high-end caterer opted for captained yacht rides so her family could have an escape during quarantine

Like artists, chefs frequently make trades with their well-heeled clients.

Andrea Correale, who owns Elegant Affairs, a Manhattan and Hamptons-based catering firm that counts celebs like Mariah Carey and Billy Joel as clients, says she misses being able to travel during Covid.

So when a client asked her to cater a July surf-and-turf 40th birthday party on the beach in West Hampton — replete with a wine tasting and live music — she turned down a cash payment.

“In exchange, I asked for his 65-foot Viking yacht,” says Correale, who waived her $20,000 fee for six captained trips on the yacht.

“It’s beautiful and it’s especially important during Covid to get out on the water with family.”

Bartering is a win-win for those with specialized skillsets, but be forewarned, there is a risk

Meanwhile, CrossFit cofounder Lauren Jenai swung a deal last month for weekly health-focused meals for her family created by a private chef.

“The chef was struggling with her weight and Type 2 diabetes,” says Jenai, who is now behind the digital health company, Manifest.

“So I developed a custom program for her and she made these incredible meals for us.”

Of course, there is a potentially dangerous aspect to all this self-serving generosity. According to the IRS, bartered goods are taxable.

One Upper East Side philanthropist points to her friend whose family owns a high-end home furnishings brand.

“She barters all the time. For example, she took me to play golf at this [well-known Long Island country club] and all the furnishings were by her family’s company,” said the philanthropist who asked to remain anonymous to protect her friendship.

“She bartered furnishing for a membership worth several hundred thousand dollars,” she said. “The IRS would be furious if they knew.”