Quick: Name the investment vehicle that appears in the portfolios of more than 90 million Americans.

If you said "mutual funds," give yourself a gold star and head to the front of your cubicle: You are correct!

The "wisdom" of crowds
Trouble is, as convenient as they are, the vast majority of mutual funds are market-lagging dogs. With more than 7,000 of the suckers vying for your hard-earned savings, the trouble lies in separating the fund industry's proverbial wheat from its chaff. And let's not even talk (at least not yet) about zeroing in on just those select few that make the cut and make a good match for your investing timeline and tolerance for risk.

In previous commentaries, I've highlighted some of the salient details that you should home in on when making fund investment decisions, including those you make when picking funds from your company's 401(k) plan. Among other things, you should look for low price tags -- the average stock fund will ding you roughly 1.4% for the "privilege" of investing in it -- and seasoned management teams with lengthy track records of success.

Puzzling pieces
Still, even after you've identified funds that make the grade, there remains the all-important matter of cherry-picking from among the worthies and assembling them into a portfolio that's right for your investing profile.

Young and/or aggressive investors, for example, may be completely content with a lineup that provides hefty exposure to racy growth stocks such as Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Genentech (NYSE:DNA), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) -- all of which currently sport earnings growth estimates in excess of 20% and, not coincidentally, price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios that reside in the stock market's nosebleed section.

Conservative types, meanwhile, may be perfectly content with market stalwarts such as Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD), Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT), and Citigroup (NYSE:C), each of which currently trades at a P/E discount relative to the broader market and its typical industry rival.

The Foolish bottom line
Most of us, however, fall somewhere between those extremes, and Motley Fool Champion Funds -- the Fool newsletter service that I head up -- provides Aggressive, Moderate, and Conservative model portfolios for just that reason. Our models are meant as asset-allocation starting points, portfolios that you can tweak and tailor to your heart's -- and your nest egg's -- content.

Indeed, in order to aid and abet that cause, we also highlight one pick per month that ranks among the fund industry's best and brightest in terms of its forward-looking prospects. And so far, so good: Our list of recommended funds has outperformed the market 21.5% vs. 9.02% since we first opened for business back in March 2004.

If you'd like to take a look at our winners list, model portfolios, and complete back-issues archive, a risk-free 30-day guest pass is yours for the taking. Your pass also provides access to our members-only discussion boards, a Foolish community that serves as the newsletter's brain trust.

Interested? Good deal! Just click here to get started.

Shannon Zimmerman, lead analyst for Champion Funds, doesn't hold a financial position in any of the companies listed. Anheuser-Busch is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, eBay is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, and Kraft is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Fool is investors writing for investors, and you can read all about our disclosure policy by clicking right here.