The World Series hasn't even begun, but no matter: Whether the market continues its recent upward trajectory or experiences another summer-style snapback, it's safe to say that 2006 will go down as yet another wild and woolly ride for stock investors. And it could always get wilder, of course.

This year's real estate downturn might continue to weigh on homebuilders like DR Horton (NYSE:DHI), Lennar (NYSE:LEN), and Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM) -- each of which currently trades with a price-to-earnings ratio in the vicinity of 5 -- or, conversely, it might set the stage for a bargain-bin rally.

The upcoming holiday season will provide its usual grist for Wall Street's mill, too: Will bellwether retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) report "lackluster" or "robust" same-store sales -- can't these guys get a thesaurus? -- or will the likes of (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) eat their lunch and grab additional market share?

Inquiring financial pundits wanna know! Preferably on a minute-by-minute basis, thank you very much.

Follow the bouncing stock chart
You know that kind of financial media mayhem is coming, right? And with it, alas, comes the potential for plenty of volatility. Indeed, with the possible exception of Wal-Mart -- whose dominance and discounted multiples have provided a bit of a price cushion -- each of the above retailers offers a close-up look at the broader market's jostling in action.

That kind of volatility is among the many reasons that mutual funds are my main investment vehicles of choice. Thanks to built-in advantages like whip-smart diversification and razor-sharp money management, funds are the way to go if, like me, you'd like your market-beating performance to come with ample opportunity for much-needed beauty rest.

Parallel universe
Fund fan though I am, I certainly realize that most of 'em are losing propositions, bad and pricey bets with managers who haven't earned their keep and who, not coincidentally, don't eat much of their own cooking -- i.e., invest in the funds they run -- either.

There are important exceptions to that rule, though, and you can go a long way toward finding them by reversing the profile above: Funds that boast below-average expense ratios and successful managers who invest alongside their shareholders are the ones that can make you wealthy while keeping volatility under control.

The Foolish bottom line
Those are three of the criteria I look for at Motley Fool Champion Funds, the Fool newsletter service that exists to shine a spotlight on the money management industry's best and brightest. And so far, so good: Since hanging out our shingle back in 2004, we've beaten the market by a healthy margin -- and with far less volatility than you'd experience in a "stocks-only" portfolio, too.

If that strikes you as a winning profile, consider grabbing a risk-free Champion Fundsguest pass. Your pass provides 30 days of access to our current issue and archives, as well as the service's complete list of fund recommendations. Our members-only discussion boards and model fund portfolios are part of the plan, too.

There's no obligation to stick around if you find Champion Funds isn't for you, so just click here to get started. Wild and woolly may be the nature of the market beast, but as you'll see, there really is a way to tame it.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises GreenLight with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, Shannon didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value pick. Amazon and eBay are Stock Advisor selections. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.