OK, Fools, with the Dow, the Nasdaq, and the S&P hovering near their respective 2005 lows, let's all wring our hands at the same time and get it over with, shall we?

Spiking oil prices. A soft dollar. The U.S budget deficit. Tepid jobs numbers. Inflation jitters.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I'm no economist, nor do I play one on TV. For all I know -- heck, for all the economists know -- the market is headed for a major downturn, the likes of which haven't been seen since your Uncle Ernie had to walk uphill to and from school back in the day, the poor, hapless schmuck.

I nonetheless remain a long-term investor, but don't get me wrong: I don't have my head in the sand, nor do I look at the world through the kind of rose-colored glasses that Elvis Costello once -- for irony-drenched purposes, I'm sure -- used to wear. Far from it, in fact. I don't like shelling out in excess of $2 a gallon for gasoline. And as a pay-as-you-go kind of guy, I don't like the size of the U.S. budget deficit, either.

The good news
The good news, of course, is that capitalism remains the most resilient economic theory going -- and, beyond that, American capitalism in particular has a peculiar knack for shrugging off the market's occasional doldrums. With that in mind, I'm a big believer in the Foolish wisdom of taking advantage of the stock market's dips and making quality investments on the cheap.

And 2005, as it happens, is turning out to be a pretty good year for Wal-Mart-style (NYSE:WMT) blue-light shoppers. Popular S&P trackers such as the Spiders (AMEX:SPY) ETF and Vanguard 500 (FUND:VFINX) have, of course, suffered setbacks since the year began, as has Vanguard Total Stock Market (FUND:VTSMX), an index tracker that shadows the Wilshire 5000. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq 100-tracking Cubes (NASDAQ:QQQQ) ETF is off more than 8% since the beginning of 2005.

So, c'mon, go ahead. Get in touch with your inner investing cheapskate and sound it out loud and strong. Hip-hip-hooray! If you're investing for the long haul, after all, occasional market discounts really are something to cheer about.

Get active
That said, the blue light won't shine forever. Indeed, yesterday saw a modest uptick in the major indexes when, among other things, oil pulled back slightly from the $58-a-barrel mark. So, in such a choppy market environment, what's a Foolish investor to do?

Glad you asked. As the guy who runs point on the Motley Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service, I'm here to tell you that index investing -- at least as an exclusive strategy -- ain't all it's cracked up to be. Yes, yes: Over the very long haul, the typical actively managed fund loses out to the S&P. But there's a lot less to that observation than meets the eye.

You wouldn't buy the "typical" stock, now, would you? So whoever said you had to buy the "typical" mutual fund? Indeed, over the last 10 years, well over 400 funds have surpassed the S&P 500's mark, and the five-year number -- a period during which it has very much paid to have an active manager who can dodge bullets and snap up "fallen angels" -- is even more impressive: Through December 2004, roughly 1,600 domestic-stock funds have beaten the S&P.

Wake up and smell the Champs
As you might imagine, we focus in Champion Funds on the industry's S&P beaters. But while past performance is one of the yardsticks I use to make forward-looking recommendations, there are plenty of others. Indeed, I have a whole quiver of 'em.

Low expenses and gobs of managerial experience appear near the top of my shopping list, for example, and I'm also a big fan of managers who stick to their time-tested strategies in the face of apparent adversity. For disciplined types, after all, market slumps represent important opportunities to snap up shares of the stocks they like at a discount.

With that in mind, it's no coincidence that our Aggressive Champion Funds model portfolio (which makes its debut in the current issue) boasts managers who, on average, have been in place for more than 10 years. Also, the portfolio's average price tag is a mere 0.74%. And through the end of 2004, the funds we've selected for our lineup have surpassed the S&P's mark by an average of 8.5% and 9.3%, respectively.

Not too shabby, eh?

No, not too shabby at all, especially when you consider that these are funds that count among their top holdings the built-to-last likes of ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) among many other solid stocks.

And there's more to come, too. Our next issue, which hits the streets fewer than two weeks from now, will feature a lineup designed with moderate investors in mind. And it, of course, will strike a winning profile, too.

Last but not least: Next month, we'll unveil a Championship lineup for folks who are near, or perhaps already in, retirement.

So go ahead, take the service -- along with all of its back issues and recommendations -- for a risk-free spin. I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds , the newsletter that strives to put the fun back into mutual fund investing. Shannon owns shares of Vanguard Total Stock Market, and the Fool has a disclosure policy.