“Look, Reb Menachem, there’s no reason for panic,” Chaim said soothingly into the phone, “you have plenty of time. A common mistake made by people your age”—he laughed—“I should really say ‘our age,’ I’m not too far behind you — is to swing for the fences, going for investments that don’t make sense because they’re worried that they won’t have enough to live on. Listen to me, you have a few good years before retirement, assuming, b’ezras Hashem, you manage to go another five, six years. It’s not too late. I know that you haven’t been great with budgeting…” Chaim paused. 

Dovi Gelber stood still in the hallway, trying to listen in. 

“Yes,” Chaim continued, “your wife and everyone else’s wife too, there’s nothing to be gained by blaming, everyone’s doing their best. It wasn’t wasted, there were tuitions to pay and simchahs to make. Life costs money. Don’t get upset about it now. You’ll retire like a mensch if we do this right. 

“But Reb Menachem, it starts now — saving, being realistic about what life will cost once you’re not working, understanding inflation. How about you come in for a meeting, together with your wife? I’ll explain it, and she’ll understand too.” 

Chaim laughed. “A big part of saving is getting the wife to buy into it, to make the women understand how important it is, right? Reb Menachem, it’s not a situation, it’s the same with most of our heimishe clients.” 

Dovi Gelber felt ill — not just because he was eavesdropping, but because he couldn’t pretend that Chaim Reimer wasn’t excellent at what he did. 

Chaim, behind his desk, caught a flash of movement in the hallway near his door, but didn’t focus on it. 

An e-mail popped up on his screen from Braunfeld, down the hall. Gelber standing right outside ur office fiddling with light switch, but it’s obv he’s listening to ur convo. 

Chaim eased Menachem Freiman’s concerns for a bit longer, penciling the appointment into his calendar before letting the conversation wind down. Freiman thanked him and said goodbye, but Chaim answered with, “Yes, hatzlachah,” before softly pressing the off button. 

Then, as if continuing the conversation, he still clutched the phone. “And Reb Menachem, there’s one more thing I should tell you. Our appointment is for next Tuesday, but if you feel down before then, feel free to come in. You see, we have a CEO who painted his office yellow. It’s really optimistic, a guaranteed pick-me-up. 

“Yes, I know, it’s really swell. He’s a great kid, our new CEO. We’re fortunate that he chose us over a career in, say, espionage, or detective work. He’s real sneaky.” 

Outside, Dovi Gelber sheepishly removed his finger from the light switch and scurried back to his office, angrier than usual, because he knew he had only himself to blame. "