Jeff Small, Arbor Financial

by: Eric Wright

For many people, when it comes to investing, they feel a little like the vast majority of Floridians felt watching the predicted tracks of Hurricane Irma. People were preparing to leave, preparing to stay, and adding to the frustration, when they consulted the experts, they were met with an alphabet soup of forecast models — the European ECMWF, the American GFS and more.

To Jeff Small of Arbor Financial Services, that kind of uncertainty with one’s financial future is simply unacceptable. This is one reason he often appears on The Fox News Channel being interviewed by the likes of Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney or Charles Payne. He can also be found discussing the impact a financial storm will have on oil production, gas prices and the markets on Newsmax, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Radio where he fields questions and provides expert commentary. In fact, he has made approximately 50 media appearances in the last two years and given presentations in over 1,000 public forums since 2000.

Small explained his business has 3 primary distinctions. One is his focus on educating clients, by showing them rather than by just telling them. The second is his position as an independent Investment Advisor, giving clients every available option. And thirdly, the modernization of a client’s portfolio, coordinating the impact of fees, risk, goals and yields.

“Being independent allows me to shop the entire marketplace for my clients,” he explained. “When prospective clients come to my office they ’ve never really found a home for their money. In other words, they have a multitude of different accounts in different places, but no one has coordinated their assets with their goals and objectives. The industry, at least in the past, had a ‘house always wins’ mentality. In other words, you were pushing the products the company wanted to promote — stocks, bonds, funds, variable annuities whatever — whether it was a good position for the client or not. Fortunately, the future is moving toward independent advisors.”

Carl Richards, a certified financial planner whose “Sketch Guy” pieces appear regularly in the New York Times, validated this when he wrote, “When looking for an advisor, choose one who is giving you advice, not selling you something and who is open about conflicts of interest.”

Early On…Target

For Small, choosing a career track was not something he came to in his mid-20s or after dabbling in other professions. The allure of the stock market pulled him in as a teenager, and he began reading investment periodicals when others were first discovering Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone.

By 19, he was studying the barons of industry and entrepreneurialism, becoming convinced he too could make his mark. Then, as he put it, “A firm in Tampa took a chance on me because of my age.” There he learned the basics of the business and later worked in downtown Orlando before opening his own office in Melbourne in 1993.

Since then, he has seen momentous change and growth in the region and the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed from a little over 3,000 in ‘93 to over 22,000 today, while the markets have also experienced some of the most turbulent cycles in recent history.

Seeing the Forest, Not Just the Trees

Though one might assume the introduction of innovations like online trading would revolutionize the markets, which in some ways they have, Small has a different perspective. He believes investors are still stuck in the trading paradigm of the ‘80s and ‘90s, not realizing investment cycles last 14 to 20 years, either trending up or down.

“The key is modernizing your money,” he added. “Unfortunately, online investing doesn’t show you how to do that. They basically over promote risk as a panacea, but with that strategy one correction can decimate you.”

Although we are currently at the second-highest valuation in 147 years and 90 percent of all stocks are at their all-time highs, most believe a correction is inevitable. To Small, modernizing means learning to evolve in your perspective on money versus, as he puts it, “having your head in the sand.”

“The old standard of diversifying and not worrying about markets going up and down can be a disaster in a long-term bear market,” he explained. “We had double-digit returns from 1982-2000, but from 1968-1981 the market earned zero. We had a post-war boom from 1947-1967, but before that there was another long trough.”

This perspective and approach is fundamental to Small’s advisor strategy. He believes that to modernize is to measure the efficiency of money as it relates to calculating your net rate of return. In his seminars and forums, he sites that the S&P is up 250 percent since March of 2009, but then he asks: “With the S&P up 250, the Dow up 260 and Nasdaq up 370 percent, how many of you have realized that type of return on your investments?”

“Not one person raises his or her hand,” he said. “We teach them how to calculate their net rate of return on their current and future investments.”

When weighing the obvious factors of life expectancy continuing to climb, medical costs still on the rise and the tenuous nature of Social Security, rocky markets and uncertain returns do not bring financial peace of mind or financial security. For Small, there are certain keys he teaches people looking for investment advice and advisors.

“When looking for an advisor, choose one who is giving you advice, not selling you something and who is open about conflicts of interest.” – Carl Richards

“We help people build their retirement funds so they are able to pull out as much as they can, but leave their assets intact and avoid losses.” – Jeff Small

“First, people need to work with a fiduciary,” Small emphasized, which by definition means someone who puts their client’s interests and goals first. “In other words, the advisor isn’t going to have the salesman hat on. Second, their advisor should give them options based on what they want with their money, coordinated with unique insight from the advisor’s perspective. Because of their knowledge and experience, advisors should have anticipatory skills and not have to rely on the skills of their company.”

Small also explains clearly and upfront to clients what the management fees are and what the various layers of fees are. In addition, what it will cost to harvest funds for income while factoring in market risk. There are 3 types of stock market risks – the initial loss, the compounding on that loss and the lack
of earnings that may occur on the remaining assets. This is the type of information that investors and consumers need to have in order to make informed decisions on their own money. This differentiates Small in the financial advisory world. His unique perspective is one of the reasons he is sought out as a spokesperson across the country. That, in addition to the extensive commentary he has written on market trends.

Last year, he was booked on various national business news affiliates 52 weeks, but was often preempted by campaigning. “In one instance, Donald Trump took all of my air time,” he recalled. “I was waiting for 20 minutes in the studio, but I did get on right after him.”

Helping People Hit Their Target

Though Small’s focus is on retirees and pre-retirees (ARBOR in his company’s name, ARBOR Financial Services, is actually an acronym for Assisting Retirees Beyond Ordinary Results), his insights and perspective can help anyone looking for clarity in the cacophony of voices offering investment advice. Releasing in December 2017, his new book, Turning Financial Planning Right-Side Up, helps everyday people prepare for what he and his staff call “the art of financial self-defense.” “We help people build their retirement funds so they are able to pull out as much as they can, but leave their assets intact and avoid losses,” Small said.

Small has always enjoyed the pressure and chance to rise to the occasion an extemporaneous format presents. “If I have the knowledge and expertise along with something unique and valuable to share that will help people, I really appreciate that opportunity,” he said, adding. “This is a passion for me.”

A Trusted Financial Consultant

Small has made TV appearances on Fox News, Fox Business News, Newsmax and and The American Dream Show. In addition, he has appeared on locally produced programming in Washington DC, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Austin, Seattle and Sacramento.

His radio appearances include: Wall Street Journal Radio Network, Bloomberg Radio, Korelin Economic Report, Financial Survival Show with Kerry Lutz, After the Bell with Jason Stancil, Money for Lunch with Bert Martinez, Denver’s Money Talk radio show with Angel Tuccy, WGSO Ring Side Politics with Jeff Crouere, Real Wealth Network with Kathy Fettke, WOWO Fort Wayne Morning Show with Charly Butcher, Voice America Business Network, Money Answers Show with Jordan Goodman.