We'd all like to be able to hold 15 to 20 individual stocks in a well-diversified portfolio. Unfortunately, this isn't practical for many of us; we just might not have the time to follow such a large number of companies or, if we do have the time, we lack the money to establish so many positions in a cost-effective fashion.

Sometimes a mutual fund is the least-worst option for those individuals looking to gain diversification in a particular market segment. A portfolio of funds may also be ideal for investors who are too busy to follow individual stocks. I have two words, however, for anyone considering purchasing a mutual fund: caveat emptor. (Or as the less pompous call it, "buyer beware.")

Here's my money. Take what you want.
How many of you would put your kid's education money in a brown paper bag and hand it to a stranger? And who would give a contractor a blank check in return for refurbishing the kitchen? Well, that's what we do when we buy a mutual fund without knowing the managers or having a grasp of the fee structure.

Entering the mutual fund market without assistance is like riding the subway in Rome with your wallet hanging out of your back pocket -- you're guaranteed to lose money without even realizing it. Many of these funds charge outrageous fees that are buried in the fine print of the fund's prospectus. Other funds trumpet their past performance -- and only later do you learn that the management team that earned the high returns is long gone.

Midway through the journey of our lives .
So before entering the depths of the mutual fund universe, I need a guide, just as Dante needed Virgil before descending into the Inferno. I'm interested in buying a large-cap growth fund to give my portfolio some diversification in this area. I ran one of my broker's screens for such a fund and 54 of them popped up. So I could either spend the next month or two sifting through all of those funds, or I could consult our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter service. I think I'll go with option No. 2.

The great attraction of Champion Funds is that its analyst, the amiable Shannon Zimmerman, does all of the due diligence for you. He only chooses funds with low expense ratios (which measure the percentage of a fund's net assets that are used for expenses) and outstanding managers with proven track records at the fund. If the fund is on Shannon's list, you know you're not in for any "surprises."

What's the best you got?
So here's my goal. I want a large-cap growth fund that invests heavily in information technology, health care, and energy. I would expect companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Johnson & Johnson, and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) to be part of such a fund. Let's see what Shannon can do for me.

Looking at Champion Funds' elite list of funds, I discovered three large-cap growth selections that fit the bill. Each of the funds uses very different strategies, and will appeal to different kinds of investors. After reading Shannon's analysis of each one, I felt that T. Rowe Price Growth Stock (PRGFX) was best for me. Its manager, Bob Smith, has delivered outstanding performance since he took the reins back in 1997. And the fund's expense ratio is a mere 0.73%, which compares very favorably with the industry average of 1.6% for this style of fund.

The fund is also heavily invested in the sectors I was looking for. The portfolio contains Microsoft, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) from the tech sector. It also holds UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) and WellPoint (NYSE:WLP) from the health-care area, and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) from the energy sector.

I intend to invest in the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock fund as soon as the Fool's trading restrictions allow. I'm thrilled that I was able to find a fund that met all of my needs -- and it only took me 52 minutes, from beginning to end. If you think you could benefit by having Shannon Zimmerman guide you through the murky world of mutual funds, sign up for a 30-day free trial to Champion Funds. If not, no worries. Just be sure to fasten that button on the pocket that holds your wallet.

John Reeves d oes not own any of the companies mentioned in this article. Dell and UnitedHealth are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.