James Twining

James Twining CFP®

About James

“Experienced CFP, fee-only, Independent RIA, passive investment philosophy, DFA qualified”

I believe that investors have been taken advantage of by the investment industry for far too long.  I want investors to have a more positive experience; to rely upon unselfish advisors who honor their values and care about them as people; to have some semblance of financial security and to achieve success.

My experience as a broker taught me the dark side of the investment business;  the obsession over sales and revenue, the hidden costs, the conflicts of interest, and the lack of interest in delivering comprehensive financial planning that is so crucial to the successful attainment of important goals.

That experience has given me the ability to easily spot the common vices in the investment business, and motivated me to become completely independent in order to engage in more virtuous business practices. I partner with clients to manage their wealth with a focus on reducing conflicts of interest, containing their costs, and providing total transparency.  I deliver comprehensive financial planning advice, behavioral coaching, and education.  This is of great value to my clients; far more than mere investment portfolio design and management.


, , Loyola Marymount Univesity, University of Southern California




Individual CRD #1225894

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a designation issued by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards

Educational/Exam Requirements:

  • Completion of CFP-board registered study program, or alternative degree or certification, demonstrating mastery of over 100 topics surrounding financial planning
  • Pass 10 hour exam testing knowledge in financial planning situations

Prerequisites/Experience Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited college or university, and
  • Three years of full-time personal financial planning experience

Public Disciplinary Process? Yes

Continuing Education Requirements: 30 hours every two years

Typical Clients

Executives People near retirement Seniors

How I Can Help

Personal Finance Retirement Investing

Fee Structure

Fee-only Commission and Fee Commission Hourly Other Contingency
Learn more about how advisors are paid in our Guide to Advisor Compensation.

Typical minimum Client Assets:



Phone: (503) 549-1246 Address: 103 E Holly St, Suite 505
Bellingham, WA 98225

James has answered 55 questions

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James Twining
Answer added by James Twining | 5710 views
79 out of 81 found this helpful

Congrats on taking care of something that many people put off indefinitely. A basic estate plan usually

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Congrats on taking care of something that many people put off indefinitely.

A basic estate plan usually consists of wills,  (one for each spouse),  powers of attorney  (one for each), medical powers of attorney  (one for each) and medical directives  (one for each).  Some basic estate plans may include a community property or separate property agreement as well. The price range for a basic estate plan is wide;  I have seen attorneys charge anywhere between $800 to $4,000. 

I recommend that before you meet, ask the attorney what the cost will be.  This lets the attorney know that you are fee-sensitive,  and he/she will be more likely to be reasonable on price.  In my humble opinion,  a reasonable fee for a basic estate plan is in the range of $1,000 to $1,500.

A trust is a substitute for a will, and is not usually considered part of a basic estate plan.  Trusts can be living or testamentary,  revocable or irrevocable.  Some trusts are quite simple,  while others can be very complex.  The price range for drafting a trust varies widely;  some can be many thousands of dollars.

The most common type of trust is a revocable living trust.  These trusts can have many uses, but the most common is probate avoidance.  Assets that are titled in the trust do not pass by will, and are not part of the probate estate.  This can save the time and cost of probate.  Before springing for a revocable living trust,  consider that many assets can be titled to avoid probate.  For example,  a non qualified bank or brokerage account can be titled "TOD"  (transfer on death) with beneficiaries listed.  In effect,  this puts the account into a simple trust, and there is no cost for this.  In 23 states a real estate asset such as your home can be also be titled TOD  (also known as a "beneficiary deed").  Most states have a standard form that can be completed and filed to retitle the asset.  Finally, all retirement plans including 401k, pension, IRA, Roth IRA and others,  plus insurance plans such as permanent or term life, fixed or variable annuities etc.  have beneficiary designations,  and already pass without probate.

All basic estate plan documents and trusts can be drafted online as well,  through sites like willmaker and legalzoom.  The cost for a basic estate plan through one of these sites is a few hundred dollars, and a revocable living trust is a few hundred dollars as well.  Although this is a far less expensive route, I find the quality to reflect that lower cost.  I might consider drafting the basic estate plan on such a site,  but I would avoid using them for more complex documents such as trusts.

Hope this helps!

James Twining
Answer added by James Twining | 7071 views
68 out of 72 found this helpful

Ah…the age-old debate between commissions and fees!  To really understand the difference, realize

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Ah…the age-old debate between commissions and fees!  To really understand the difference, realize that in the investment business there are not one, but two distinct business models: 

 1) securities sales, and 2) financial advice.

A security salesman may call him/herself a financial advisor, a financial planner, a "fee-based advisor" or any other number of other titles, but the fact is that a security salesman is not being paid to give advice. The proper titles for a salesman include stock broker, registered representative, or insurance agent. Like any salesperson, he/she is being paid a commission to sell a product for a financial institution.  The salesman must be a registered representative
of the institution; so an easy way to identify a salesman is to look on his/her
business card, website, or yellow page advertisement for that term.  If you see the term "registered representative", you are dealing with a salesman,  regardless of the title he/she uses.

Your salesman may be attempting to do the very best he can for you; most do. But there is a
problem:  he doesn’t work for you. He works for, (and is paid by)  the institution he is registered with.  That institution is likely to reward him most for selling products that are highly profitable for the firm.  Those products tend to be the most expensive products for you.  An unscrupulous salesman may sell the products that pay the highest commissions: notorious in this area are limited partnerships, non-traded REITS, fixed and variable annuities, and permanent life insurance policies.  Not coincidentally, these products tend to be illiquid, subject to surrender charges if not held for a number of years, and with high internal ongoing costs.

Some salesmen may frequently buy and sell stocks or bonds within your account as a way to generate commissions.  This practice, known as “churning” is detrimental because of the cumulative costs.

But the biggest problem with a commissioned salesperson is that most of them give biased and inferior financial advice.  They are not paid to give advice, and their judgment is clouded by their end goal of selling a product.  As they say, “You get what you pay for”, and with a salesman, you get a product.

If you want advice, hire an advisor.  An advisor is paid to give advice, not to sell a product.  I would look for the term “fee-only” to insure that you are truly dealing with an advisor. An advisor works for you,  not for an institution.  You pay the advisor directly for advice, and you do not pay commissions, because the advisor does not sell products at all.  Instead of selling products, an advisor buys securities for you.  The conflict of interest inherent in commissioned sales is gone; an advisor generally is paid a fee based upon the size of your account.  You are both motivated to have the account grow; when you prosper, your advisor prospers; when you suffer, your advisor suffers.

The advisor is financially motivated to help you succeed, and that includes selecting securities that are low in cost.  In my experience, investors who rely upon salesman pay on average more than 2.5% per year for their investments when all components of cost are added together  (loads, 12b1-fees, turnover costs, and cash drag).  A cost-conscious advisor who uses a passive strategy is likely to cost less than half of that, even when the fee for advice is included.

The value of advice goes beyond investment selection.  A competent advisor will give valuable advice in all the major areas of a financial plan: cash reserve and liability management, savings and withdrawal rates, education planning, advanced income tax strategy, projections to  determine feasibility of retirement, insurance evaluation and estate transition.  Most importantly, an experienced advisor can act as your “behavioral coach”, preventing you from making costly mistakes such as market timing and holding concentrated positions.  This comprehensive financial planning advice is often a bigger factor in your success than anything else.

In summary, I advise you to retain the services of a fee-only advisor.

James Twining
Answer added by James Twining | 8502 views
50 out of 53 found this helpful

Many folks are intimidated when buying or selling precious metals.  I'm glad you are there to help

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Many folks are intimidated when buying or selling precious metals.  I'm glad you are there to help your grandmother to sell her gold bars.

First,  you want to deal with a local gold dealer.  Almost all towns have at least one store that buys and sells gold, silver, coins, and other collectibles.  Shipping gold is expensive because 1) it is heavy, and 2) it's value makes insurance necessary.  By bringing the gold bars to a local store yourself, you avoid those costs.

But before you bring the gold to a store, call two or three of them and get price quotes.  Look at the gold bars for any brand names or "hallmarks".  Some of them will add to the value of the bar.  Most bars, however,  are simply worth the "spot"  price of raw gold bullion.  The spot price is a price that is widely quoted.  Compare the quotes and bring the bars to the store with the highest quote.  It should be a price that is quite close to the spot price;  certainly not more than 2% less.

One other item to be aware of:  gold is considered a "collectible"  for income tax purposes.  This means that there is no favorable capital gains tax treatment. Capital gains on gold are taxed at a high 28%.  If your grandmother has income that is low enough,  you may be able to sell portions of her gold each year without tripping an income tax.  For specific tax advice, talk with a competent CPA.  All the best!

James Twining
Answer added by James Twining | 2725 views
18 out of 18 found this helpful

I am assuming that your annuity is the common "deferred annuity", which carries a surrender

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I am assuming that your annuity is the common "deferred annuity", which carries a surrender charge,  and by "maturing" you mean that the surrender charge will disappear in January.  I am assuming that the annuity has grown in value, and I am also assuming that it is a "variable" annuity,  meaning that it is invested into various "subaccounts" with market values that fluctuate.  Finally, I am assuming that the annuity is not held inside a qualified retirement plan like an IRA or 401k.  If any of those assumption are incorrect, let me know, as that would change my answer.

If the assumptions are indeed correct,  then the first part of the answer is easy:  It is in your best interest to get out of that annuity in January.  You are not required to;  if you so choose you can stay in the annuity,  but that is not advisable. The reason for this is simple:  all of the deferred annuities that were sold with surrender charges are more expensive than they need to be.  It is quite likely that when the various hidden costs including the M&E charge  (mortality and expense),  the sub-account expense ratios, the transactions charges based on turnover, the administrative charge, and cash drag are totaled together,  your total expenses are north of 3% per year, and perhaps even 4% per year.  Contrast that with an annuity that does not pay a commission to an insurance agent;  some of these annuities charge only about .6% per year when all costs are totaled. If you retain the services of a fee-only financial advisor, your "all-in" costs are likely to be half of the costs you are paying now,  and in addition you will obtain valuable ongoing advice.  The new annuity will provide various sub-accounts as well,  and a conservative portfolio can be built within the new annuity. The technique I would use to transfer from your existing annuity to the new less expensive annuity is the "1035 exchange",  also known as a "like kind" exchange.  You may be familiar with the "1031" like kind exchange that applies to real property.  The 1031 exchange is the equivalent for insurance contracts such as deferred annuities. 

You have not yet paid income tax on the growth within your annuity.  Through a 1031 exchange, the tax deferral will continue;  in other words you will not pay income tax when you exchange to the new annuity.  The income taxes are only paid when a deferred annuity is liquidated,  either as a monthly installments or a lump sum.

If you liquidate the annuity rather than 1035 exchanging it,  you will pay income tax on the amount over your cost basis  (the "deferred interest")  at ordinary income tax rates. For example, if you originally deposited $100,000 into the annuity,  you would owe tax on the $35,000 "deferred interest".  This can be a viable option if you are in a low income tax bracket year.  For example,  you may have a year with large medical or charitable expenses, and that may allow you to liquidate the annuity and pay tax on the $35,000 in a very low tax bracket.

More likely it will benefit you to take the taxable income gradually over time,  in which case a 1035 exchange to the new low-cost annuity followed by systematic withdrawals from the new annuity will make more sense.  If the annuity is completely liquidated rather than 1035 exchanged to a new annuity, I would recommend a massively diversified account in which the majority of the account is invested into  passively managed bond funds containing short term high quality corporate, treasury, mortgage, and TIPS bonds.  A smaller percentage  (perhaps 20% to 30%) of the account would be invested into  passively managed equity funds containing domestic, international, emerging, and real estate equities.

When you turn 70 1.2 you will be required to begin withdrawals from your 401k.  Unless there is "after tax" money in your 401k,  every penny of those withdrawals will be taxable.  The annuity, on the other hand, contains a significant amount of "after tax" money.  Your deposits to the annuity have already been taxed,  so you will not pay tax when they are withdrawn.  Deferred annuities withdrawals are treated as interest first,  principal second.  Assuming that you have a cost basis of $100,000,  the first $35,000 in withdrawals will be taxable,  but the last $100,000 in withdrawals will be considered a tax free return of principal. 

Once you have withdrawn the first $35,000,  you may be able to enjoy a very low tax bracket for a few years as you live on the other $100,000.  This may even allow you to take tax free Social Security benefits,  as the taxability of Social Security benefits depends upon the amount of other taxable income you receive.  This window of opportunity is likely to close when you are 70 1/2,  because the required distributions from your 401k are likely to push you into a higher tax bracket.

I have only scratched the surface here:  there are many caveats and other factors that may influence your decision.  I would retain a competent fee-only CFP.

All the best!




James Twining
Answer added by James Twining | 3587 views
14 out of 14 found this helpful

With a $75,000 gross income, I estimate your payroll deductions to be:     Federal Tax

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With a $75,000 gross income, I estimate your payroll deductions to be:

    Federal Tax Withholding:  $12,069

   State Income Tax Withholding: $4,164

   FICA (Social Security) Tax Withholding: $4,654

   Medicare Tax Withholding: $1,087

   Net Income After Tax: $53,026

Disclaimer:  This is an estimate only; there are many factors that can change the amount of income tax you actually pay,  such as itemized deductions, capital gains/losses,  etc. 

If you have payroll deductions for benefits such as a 401k and health insurance premiums,  deduct those as well. 

$75,000 is a fine income for a single person of your age.  I would highly recommend maximizing any retirement plan contributions if your employer has a 401k or other retirement plan.  If you get those dollars out of your expense stream now, you are likely not to miss them, and it will pay huge rewards later.  You are likely to be able to contribute up to $17,500 per year.

All the best!


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