By Scott Graison
Imagine a kid growing up in New York, living near Wall Street. He’s only 12 years old. Yet, he already knows what he wants to do with his life. Family and friends work on Wall Street, and he’s enthralled. Years later, he would move to Estero and earn the title of First Vice President of Wealth Management at a prominent financial services company. His name is Stefan Contorno, and on a volunteer basis, he’s providing powerful insights into money management for Lee County residents.
Welcome to a unique union of Touchstone Wealth Partners and Florida Gulf Coast University. As part of FGCU’s recently installed Continuing Education program, Contorno comes to campus each week during “snowbird season” to teach classes on asset management. The classes are aimed at members of the community rather than FGCU students.
“There’s a lot of affluence here,” says Paul Thornton, Executive Director of Continuing Education at FGCU. “Retirees or soon-to-be retirees have a high net worth. They might have made their wealth, but when it comes to money matters, they may need help with management.”
For Contorno, the goal is to educate, so his adult students can make better financial decisions.
“The typical student is between the ages of 50 and 75,” he notes. “A lot of times, it’s single women who have not been involved in the finances. It’s a cycle that’s been going on a really long time, and it needs to be broken.”
While Contorno’s main motive is altruistic, the education he provides also serves to build his company’s brand and give him exposure in the community as a knowledgeable financial adviser. Contorno is a natural teacher. Along with his work at FGCU, he also does Money Management segments for WINK TV, airing Mondays at 9:15 a.m.
There is an intrinsic joy he says he feels when a student’s face lights up with understanding.
“A lot of times, people do ask questions based on their life situations, as in, ‘I have a 401k. Does it make sense to roll it into an IRA?’ And then I get a lot of satisfaction when I see the light bulb go off for a student who hadn’t gotten it before,” says Contorno.
Continuing Education is one of three arms of adult education at FGCU. There’s also the Renaissance Academy and the newly implemented FGCU Complete program, which is ideal for working adults. The Renaissance Academy delivers unique opportunities like single lectures, short courses, day trips and more. It provides a myriad of courses — anything from archeology to Tai Chi to bridge and chess lessons. The recently-initiated Complete Program offers students who have previously earned some college credits the opportunity to work toward a Bachelor’s degree in one of three programs. It’s been developed for people who have obligations which keep them from being able to attend traditional university classes.
“I’m pleased with the early indications of the new program,” says Thornton. “I had exhilaration when we launched, but I can’t exhale yet.”
Continuing Education programs for adults are eight weeks long, whereas the archetypal student course at FGCU lasts 16 weeks.
The money management program caters toward “want to get it done” adults, says Contorno. This remarkable curriculum is filled with topics like retirement income, estate planning, investment options and more. For more information on Continuing Education at FGCU, visit www.fgcu.edu/CEd.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: MONEY MANAGEMENT
When: March 19, 21, 26 & 28 (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
Where: Florida Gulf Coast University — Cohen Center, Room 213, 10501 FGCU Blvd S., Fort Myers
Tuition: $79 per person, or $99 per couple; includes free 204-page Financial Planning Guide
Registration: www.fgcu.edu/ced/fssr or (239) 745-4700