Free financial advice from Hancock Bank's CEO

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Rebecca Powers – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A soft national recession with home prices falling while things like taxes and unemployment continue to rise. It makes it a pretty scary time for many.

But the time has actually never been better to get a great deal on a house or invest in a business that needs cash flow. Many hoping for the American dream want to take a risk, to get high returns in the future.

So what's the everyday, hard working man or woman supposed to do?

The man who runs one of the top rated banks in America says "shop hard, but do it with your eyes open."

Hancock Bank CEO John Hairston has seen people create fortunes in good times and in bad. You may think this down economy will keep you from succeeding, but it could be quite the opposite, if you play your cards right.

"We are in this magical time period right now for the next two to three quarters, six to nine months, where the combination of very good bargains and purchases will be out there when you can secure financing for those at historic lows," Hairston said.

There are some simple things to keep in mind when thinking about taking a chance to succeed.

"The worst time to buy a business is in the best of times, because you're basing your purchase price on these quarters that may have had record revenue. If it's been really good in the good times and it's holding its own in the bad times, it is a solid business with solid fundamentals, therefore worthy, if you're interested in buying it."

A way to protect yourself, he says, is to stay diversified. Spread out your risk.

"Don't bet the whole farm on any one thing. This is a time to be involved in several things at a very reasonable buying opportunity with low cost to service that debt. Just make good, wise decisions."

After all, he says, whether you take a chance on real estate investments or a new, small business, courageous Americans with vision are who made this country what it is.

"It's never crazy to invest in an American dream, as long as you have the cash flow to service that dream," Hairston said.

But what if you're still not sure whether you should take a plunge and invest in a dream for a possible high future return? Hairston says it all boils down to what they call "the pillow test."

"I would not do any kind of a deal that if it doesn't work out, it puts you and your family at a severe hardship. Nothing is worse than laying awake at night worried about if you're going to be able to pay your bills the next day."

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