Music geek that I am, I'm a big fan of the BBC's "Desert Island Discs" game: If you were stranded for the rest of your life, which eight albums would you want for company?
Investing geek that I am, I can't resist changing the question and raising the stakes: If you could make only one investment for the rest of your life, how would you proceed?
Better living through cheating
Me? I'd cheat. When it comes to music, box sets like, say, AC/DC's Bonfire, are the only way to go. And with investments, mutual funds should be your vehicle of choice. Why place all of your hard-earned moola on a single horse when you can spread your bets around and sleep peacefully with a top-notch fund?
On that front, Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX) and the SPDRs (FUND: SPY ) exchange-traded fund are perfectly viable options, low-cost S&P 500 trackers that rise and fall with a benchmark that counts the blue-chip likes of ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C ) among its top holdings.
And these days, of course, you can easily track smaller-cap bogies, too, dialing up your exposure to outperforming little fish like Maverick Tube (NYSE: MVK ) and FormFactor (Nasdaq: FORM ) via, for example, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM).
Thing is, investing in even rock-solid index funds means that you're destined to lose to the market: The most you can realistically expect is for your funds to lag their bogies each year by about the amount of their expense ratios.
The good news
Fortunately, you can do better than that -- much better. Indeed, there are world-class actively managed funds out there with fortunes that aren't tied to an index and managers who have shellacked the market over the course of many years.
The question, of course, is how to find them. As the Fool's resident fund geek, I've found that focusing on managerial tenure goes a long way toward helping you zero in on a short list of worthies. A fund may have a stellar track record, but if the stock picker who earned those high marks isn't still in charge, that performance history doesn't tell you a thing about the fund's forward-looking prospects.
A fund's price tag is a critical piece of the puzzle, too. Expense ratios come right out of your returns, after all. All else being equal, the lower they are, the bigger your nest egg.
But all else isn't equal
There are plenty of other variables, of course, and considering them all (so you don't have to!) is the reason for being for Motley Fool Champion Funds, the Fool investment service that I head up. We aim to cover all the data points and focus like a laser beam on just those funds that have what it takes to beat the market over the next three to five years and beyond.
So far, our picks have beaten the market by more than seven percentage points since we first set up shop, and that outperformance has come amid far less volatility than you'd experience with a portfolio of stocks -- much less a single pick! Indeed, all but five of our recommendations have made money for the service's members, giving us a batting average of just above .880.
The Foolish bottom line
Want to sneak a peek at our lineup? Excellent: Click here for a completely free 30-day guest pass. Roam around our archives, check out the current issue and model portfolios, and be sure to let us know what you think about the service on our members-only discussion boards. Yep: Those are part of the package, too.
Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter and co-advises GreenLight,a Fool service designed with investing newbies in mind. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. FormFactor is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.