University of Maryland: Bachelor’s Degree; Psychology.
George Washington University: Professional Masters certification; Finance.
College for Financial Planning: Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) designation conferred.
Florida State University College of Law: Juris Master; Law (J.M).
University of Miami School of Law: Heckerling Institute; annual continuing education.
Industry Experience since 1988:
Financial Advisor / Management Training: Capital Holding Corporation
President: Congressional Financial Corporation, McLean VA
Director: American Benefits Corp., Maitland, FL
Founder/CEO: FirsTrust Advisory Council, Orlando, FL (FirsTrust)
Board of Directors: International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP)
Board of Directors: Institute of Certified Financial Planners (ICFP)
Practitioner Division of the IAFP
Registry of CFP Licensed Practitioners
Current Licenses and Affiliations:
Certified Financial Planner ™ (CFP®): CFP Board
Registered Investment Advisor Principal: U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)
Registered Financial Advisor: National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)
American Bar Association: Associate (ABA)
Publications & Contributions:
The Washington Post, USA Today, Orlando Sentinel, Daytona Beach News Journal, Dow Jones Newswire, Journal of Financial Planning, At Home magazine, the Volusia County Medical Society quarterly journal, Seniors Today magazine, Mature Lifestyles magazine.
Mr. Koenig is the founder of FirsTrust
and a specialist in advanced trust & estate planning
Michael's youth was most impacted by his father; a busy Fortune 500 executive who never missed a Little League baseball game or church with the family on Sunday.
Mike graduated top-of-class from a military-staffed college prep school, but he declined invitations to various military academies and chose to attend the University of Maryland where he could continue his AAU/USA Boxing competitions and serve in private duty law enforcement between college coursework and athletic travels.
Career in Finance:
Mr. Koenig was recruited immediately after college by an international financial service corporation and fast-tracked into their three-year Management Training Program. By the time he completed the program, however, Mike had become disenchanted by all the conflicts of interest hiding behind the corporate curtain and how “financial planning” was being used as a product sales tool.
Mike resigned his position, became an independent financial advisor, and spent the next two years attending a Professional Master's Program at George Washington University where he learned what real financial planning looked like.
In 1994, Mike created the FirsTrust Advisory Council; an association of independent, fee-paid professionals in Orlando Florida who operated their own businesses under a common, consumer-first code of ethics and a strict prohibition against any third party influences that could impact their client loyalties. In 1998, this entity became FirsTrust.
As FirsTrust grew, Mike developed a particular specialty in the highly-complex field of Trust & Estate planning. Every year since 1998 he completes approx. 15 credit-hours through the Heckerling Institute at the University of Miami School of Law to remain fluent with cutting edge techniques that can help his clients transfer wealth, avoid probate, minimize estate taxes, and protect their assets.
Today, Mr. Koenig remains an outspoken advocate of fairness and transparency for consumers in the financial service industry. He is proud to be surrounded by a highly-competent FinancialTeam of independent, Fee-Only experts whose client loyalties far exceed what the industry regulators require of a "fiduciary" - because that's what we would want if we were the clients.
"FIRST, find someone you can TRUST"
On a personal note:
Mike continues his activities with USA Boxing as a Supervising Official of referees and judges at U.S. Olympic-sanctioned boxing competitions.
The personal story of our Founding Partner:
My life changed the day I met "Tuxedo".
It's 1980-something; I'm a rookie financial advisor, on a vacation cruise with my wife, and I'm standing in the ship's casino among a crowd of passengers who appear hypnotized by a large wheel, spinning on the casino wall.
As you might expect, the wheel contains the numbers 1 through 100, and the objective is to correctly pick which number will be at the top of the wheel once it stops.
But what catches my attention is the energetic young attendant in a tuxedo who is handing out little yellow pencils and white note cards that say "Number Tracker" across the top in bright red letters.
Tuxedo then spins the wheel - but only a few gamblers place their bets. The majority of the crowd just stands there gazing at the wheel.
Each time the wheel stops, Tuxedo yells out the winning number, and the spectators bow their heads to scribble something on their Number Tracker cards.
My curiosity grows, and I finally have to ask:
“Excuse me, Sir,” I said to the elderly man standing next to me, “May I ask what everyone’s doing?” He reluctantly revealed his Number Tracker card and said, “We're tracking the numbers."
As I studied his card, I saw that he had marked an "X" across the numbers that won in recent spins. “Number 34 just won," he said, "so I know that I should not bet on it right now.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrows and glared at me over his glasses. “Odds are against it," he said. "How likely is it that 34 will win again on the very next spin?”
I quickly answered, “One in a hundred.”
He looked to the ceiling for patience and calmed himself with a deep breath.
"Now look," he said - speaking a bit slower so I could keep up. "Statistically, the chances of number 34 coming up twice in a row are pretty slim, so I crossed it off my card. Understand?"
"Actually," I replied, "every time the wheel spins, each number has a one-in-a-hundred chance of winning. It doesn't matter which number won last time."
The man threw his hands in the air and sarcastically barked, “Oh, I see; you’ve got it all figured out and the rest of us are just a bunch of dummies, huh?”
He returned to his task as I stood there with one of those "Are you serious?" looks on my face.
Then it occurred to me:
Who created these “Number Tracker” cards and provided the little yellow pencils?
That’s right - the casino did. They know that humans tend to validate risk through irrational behaviors, so the house promotes it - and profits from it.
And they employ people like Tuxedo to distribute the tools for innocent people to do it with.
I looked over at Tuxedo - and I instantly hated him. Or felt sorry for him. Or both. I couldn't tell. He’s either ignorant or he’s complicit - but there’s no third option. And for the life of me, I couldn’t tell which.
So I just stood there, for quite a while, staring at Tuxedo, my brain simultaneously conflicted with both disdain and compassion as he spun the wheel and handed out more “Number Tracker” cards with little yellow pencils.
All of a sudden, I was overcome by a gut-wrenching thought...
"Am I a TUXEDO?"
Was I really a "Financial Advisor" to my clients, or was I just promoting solutions that profited my employer?
The thought haunted me for the rest of the cruise; but by the time we returned to port, I had confidently decided I was forever done drinking the corporate Kool-Aid.
I resigned from the Wall Street institution that employed me and became an independent advisor - which instantly provided me with a broader, less expensive and more competitive selection of financial choices for my clients.
I completed a 2-year Professional Masters program at George Washington University where I learned the HUGE difference between real financial planning and the corporate sales talk I had been required to peddle.
I became a Certified Financial Planner® and a NAPFA-Registered Fee-Only financial advisor so clients could trust that my advice and recommendations were never influenced by sales commissions or marketing incentives.
And I created FirsTrust by surrounding myself with other professionals who insist upon doing what's absolutely best for their clients.
Yes: it's legal for an "advisor" to accept marketing incentives.
But legal doesn't make it okay.
And okay is not what's best.
It's your hard earned money.
Please - do your homework. Know the difference.
The FIRST thing to do is find someone you can TRUST!
Michael T. Koenig
FirsTrust founder & CEO
P.S.: A "Word of Wisdom" for Industry Professionals
I know you’re reading this too. Maybe even cursing me under your breath.
So what about you? Are you a Tuxedo?
Do you honestly believe your company pays higher commissions, bonuses and incentives
to recommend investments that are in your client's best interest?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I've met countless dual-registered advisors who genuinely want to serve their client's best interest. Most tell me their revenue is almost 100% fees anyhow. So my question is, why don't you dump your FINRA sales licenses and join an independent, Fee-Only RIA?
The most positive difference in your life will come from
making the most positive difference in the life of your clients.
I challenge you to actually read all the expensive conflicts of interest that your company discloses in its fine print. And if you’re not OK with it - if you truly want to serve your client's BEST interest but don't know how - please call me.