Meet Dwight Mikulis, CFP®

Dwight Mikulis, CFP®

• Managing Partner
• Founding Partner
• BS, Marketing, University of Maryland
• Master of Science in Finance, Loyola University Maryland

Dwight Mikulis, CFP® was born on an airbase in Indiana, the youngest of three. His father was career Air Force, and the job took the family to New Hampshire, Florida, New York, and the Philippines. They finally settled in Maryland, and Dwight was able to attend Bowie high school without interruption.

His goal at the time was to be an accountant, but once in college, he had a change of heart. “Accountants spend a lot of time looking backwards. That’s why I ultimately chose to get my Master’s Degree in Finance, and not do a general MBA. When you invest, you learn from the past, but you’re looking to the future. That was more interesting to me than counting up what had already occurred.”

In 1981, Dwight started work at a large insurance company, where he served as its financial planning manager. While there, he met Ken Solow and John Hill — his future partners at Pinnacle. “Ken was interviewing for a job, and I was one of the people interviewing him. John came to the company later, though I had actually met him at a Christmas party the year before.”

The three became fast friends, and when John and Ken left the firm to strike out on their own in 1991, Dwight followed them the next year. “I wasn’t surprised when they decided to leave, and I understood their reasons. I kept up with them while they worked to start the new firm, and had by that time left management to be a planner myself. While there were aspects I liked about our former employer, I came to see that other things there were never going to change, and realized that it was time for me to leave. So it made sense for me to join up with John and Ken.”

As with any new business, the early days of Pinnacle Advisory Group were tough. “There was a lot to figure out. We were going from an intense and structured environment to the direct opposite. We didn’t even have the basics covered: Who is going to supply the office? What about insurance? How would we charge? There’s a lot more to starting a new firm than simply opening the door. It was still a cake being baked.”

The hours were long, but the three enjoyed working together. “There was no down time. We worked all the regular daytime hours and we worked in the evening. We were always working. When we had lunch, we talked about the clients. When we went to a bar after hours, we didn’t talk about sports, just business. There was no separation between day and night for us in those days.”

The hard work paid off. In the period since, Pinnacle has grown into the company they’d first envisioned in 1993. “Over the years, we’ve become more sophisticated in our tools — not just in our software and analytical tools, but also in the process of how we think. We are skeptical about industry norms, and are always examining whether they still make sense. And we have one of the brightest minds in planning — our Director of Wealth Management, Michael Kitces — to help us do it.”

But that isn’t the only important development at Pinnacle. “When we separated the partners from the investment team, that was a new idea. In many firms, the partners are the investment team. What an awful idea! How can you be with clients if you’re supposed to be in front of the market monitor?”

In Dwight’s view, Pinnacle offers the perfect marriage of financial planning and investment management. “I call us a ‘planning-based investment management firm,’” he says. “Other firms are interested in planning, but not in the clients’ ongoing investment management. We don’t see a point in that. What’s the good of creating plans for clients if we’re not going to help implement them?”