No. of Recommendations: 125
I was sad and relieved, even happy, to be laid off this week. Working for TMF was great. Without reservation, I can say it was the best job I ever had. I loved it. I reveled in it. The way I saw it, TMF helped me learn stuff I couldn't drag out of a fee-only planner. Basic stuff like index funds, discount brokers, long-term vs. short-term capital gains. Then wonder of wonders, they offered to pay me to help people in just the same way. From home. From anywhere. And I didn't have to fight rush hour traffic, deal with office politics, take showers or wear pants much less ties. It just doesn't get any better than that.

I will never forget an email I answered from a lady who had written about her father. It happened in the first few weeks of working for TMF. The father had been contacted by a company that said he had some unclaimed assets but would not tell him where they were unless he signed a contract giving them a large portion of the assets (1/3 or ¼, I think). So he was upset about this as was his daughter. I told her the company was probably legal but it was not much better than blackmail. I pointed her to a couple of web sites that provided unclaimed asset information for free or a nominal fee. She wrote later expressing her extreme gratitude. Using one of the sites, she found her father's assets and he got everything back. It may not sound like all that much now but at the time it was thrilling and humbling to receive her grateful note.

I've had many 'Thank you' emails during my tenure. That's part of what I loved about the job. I was in their position once so I knew how good it felt finally to understand about index funds or why IRAs and 401(k)s are such good deals. I was paying it forward, as it were. It was wonderful.

Oh, and the people. Perhaps it was party due to the fact that they were all remotes and I didn't have to see them and interact with them every day. <wink> But there's no question about it; they were wonderful. Hard working, motivated, like I was, to change the world, encouraging, playful, smart, eloquent, always passing along the credit and taking the blame. Am I gushing now? Well, there's no reason I shouldn't. It's all true.

I was sitting here in my office with an old friend of mine Friday night and I was showing him pictures of me and my co-workers from the April 2000 TMF company meeting/party. I surprised myself when I started getting choked up. God, I miss them.

The remotes had that drive, you know. Customer service and Community Fools were often picked from the boards. It was easy to find people with a clear understanding of the TMF mission and the desire to see it fulfilled. They displayed it in every post. The HQ CS/Community Fools hired later were unquestionably good but it was a special thing in my mind to be a remote Fool. So how can I not be sad about leaving?

Yeah, so why was I 'relieved, even happy' to be laid off? Well, the ol' grey mare she ain't what she used to be, I guess.

Where do I start? Do I start with the co-worker with 5+ years of tenure who got laid off in February (ahead of me with just two years and ahead of HQ CS Fools with even less tenure)? Or the fact that every single person laid off in my group in February was a remote? Or Pat Garner's 'No more layoffs' statement right after the February layoffs? Or the suggestive selling in our responses? Or the performance metrics (which, by the way, produce a reverse psychological reaction in me)? Or the cutting back on daily columns? Or the data offerings that are being 'reevaluated'? Or the fact that my ex-boss, also a remote, has been demoted because, apparently, one of the newer executives doesn't like to have off-site managers? Or the (as far as I know) still unresolved AOL link problem in the email newsletters? Or that stupid, new FoolMart 30-day return policy?

I know TMF is a business and has to make money. But none of this stuff makes TMF different, better or special. It just makes it a business. I joined up in part because I saw TMF as more than that. I hope my observations are the result of a limited perspective. After all, I was a remote. I didn't get to see the day to day, blood and guts of the operation.

I know there are reasons and rationale for all the things they've done. But I was often outside just far enough that I could complain with vigor about slippery slopes and such as I am now. Things have been changing. And they've changed enough that it's not the same work I was doing even six months ago. And that, in part, explains why I was happy to be laid off.

It is not bitterness that motivates my complaints. It is my fervent wish that TMF succeed. So I exhort those remaining to do their best to overcome the obstacles and inconsistencies of being just a business because I don't think it will be worth it otherwise.

I think a great way to kick it up would be to review and take to heart TMF's four core values. Post them on the walls. Recite them to each other. Slip them in the fortune cookies in your co-worker's lunch.

- We bring an uncompromising honesty to all our endeavors, great and small.
- We exhibit a joyful optimism shared with customers, partners, and employees alike.
- We bring about social progress through cooperative endeavor, championing civil and open debate.
- We search relentlessly for better solutions.

That's what I think TMF should do. So, perhaps you're interested in what I'm going to do now.

As we did the past two summers, my plans were to take the family to upstate NY for the summer while I continued working. The working part is defunct, of course. But there's no reason we shouldn't do the rest.

My wife's parents have a cottage on a lake and we'll stay with them for 2 or 3 months. Our finances are such that I can have at least a mini-retirement so that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to spend time with my wife and 3 boys, read, hike, exercise, watch movies, eat spiedies (, visit friends and just generally enjoy myself. Oh, and of course, I'll keep up with my friends (I hope I may call you that) on the REHP board. When we come back to FL after hurricane season, I'll think about what to do next.

And, by the way, regardless of who employs me (or doesn't), I intend to continue paying it forward.

Joseph Richardson
Proud that I was once TMFPhool1 and hoping that the lateness of the hour hasn't impinged too much on my ability to be coherent
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When Life Gives You Lemons
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