Some of the best mutual funds are closed -- what a drag, eh? Stop bashing your head against that light post, though -- all is not lost. There are ways to get into some closed funds.

First, though, let's back up and review the concept of closed funds. When a fund closes, it generally no longer accepts funds from new investors. (Sometimes, it will continue to accept additional contributions from existing shareholders, though.) It's often very successful funds that close, since closing can help performance by not giving the managers more money than they can find great investments for. In a Journal of Banking and Finance article, though, Xinge Zhao suggested another reason for closing a fund: to publicize a solid fund's performance and attract more money into the fund family's other funds. Does closing a fund boost performance? Well, research by Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCH) suggests that closed funds, on average, don't do much better or worse than their peers. (Of course, perhaps if they hadn't closed, they'd have done significantly worse.)

So how can you get in? Here are some options:

  • Ideally, get into a fund before it closes, before it even hints of closing. This doesn't mean that you should try to second-guess fund managers. Some big funds never close, while some small ones do. Instead, simply find terrific funds and invest in them. Then, if they close, you're already in. We can point you to some outstanding funds in our Champion Funds newsletter. Grab a free sample and check it out.

  • Failing that, check and see whether you can invest in a closed fund that interests you via your 401(k) or other retirement account. Some funds closed to regular investors are open to retirement accounts.

  • As an alternative, look for funds that are similar to the closed one. The fund's family might sport some other funds run by the very same managers, for example, or you may find some other excellent funds that invest in similar ways -- perhaps, for example, focusing on international stocks or small-cap companies. Just be sure to evaluate any contender fund carefully. You can learn how in our Mutual Fund Center.

  • And finally, rejoice in the fact that sometimes good funds reopen, at least temporarily.

For your information, some well-known and/or well-regarded closed funds include Fidelity's Magellan (FUND:FMAGX), PRIMECAP Fund (FUND:VPMCX), Dodge & Cox Stock Fund (FUND:DODGX), and the T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Stock Fund (FUND:OTCFX).

Learn more about mutual funds in our very readable and informative Mutual Fund Center and in these articles:

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Dodge & Cox Stock Fund and Fidelity Magellan.