When it comes to investing, I'm a contrarian at heart -- not to mention a cheapskate who's generally more interested in stocks trading with discounted multiples than those with forecasted earnings-growth estimates that have pumped up their price-to-earnings ratios to infinity and beyond.

Don't get me wrong: If you're the Buzz Lightyear type, you should certainly check out the likes of Genentech (NYSE:DNA), Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM), and Network Appliance (NASDAQ:NTAP). Each of those companies sports a five-year earnings-growth forecast in excess of 20% -- and a P/E ratio that leaves the broader market's looking anemic.

Deep discounts
If, however, you're mainly an investor of the value persuasion, here's good news: The likes of Pfizer, Tyco International (NYSE:TYC), and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) -- long-haul overachievers all -- are currently on sale, trading with P/Es that clock in below not only that of the S&P 500 but those of their industry peers as well.

Thing is, while that kind of valuation-to-quality profile packs loads of at-a-glance appeal, there's usually more to multiples than meets the eye. Sometimes, even stocks that seem like stalwarts trade at depressed levels because, well, they're depressed.

Get happy!
Sometimes they don't, of course, and the good news is that you don't have to be a financial pro to take advantage of market inefficiencies -- and make big bucks doing so. But that can be a full-time job on its own, so it's a good thing that there are some smart folks out there who do it -- successfully -- for a living.

I'm talking about world-class money managers, the savvy types who run low-cost funds with battle-tested strategies and who have delivered the performance goods for investors for many years. These managers, not coincidentally, generally "eat their own cooking," too, aligning their interests with shareholders by investing their own moola in the funds that they run.

When it comes to mutual fund "data points," few will tell you more than that one.

And sleep well
Despite what you may have heard, you can indeed beat the market while sleeping peacefully at night with world-class mutual funds. The secret is to focus like a laser beam on key criteria such as costs, historical performance on the current manager's watch, and whether that manager, so to speak, puts his money where his mouth is.

These are precisely the kind of funds we seek out for members of the Fool's Champion Funds investing service. As an example, one of our picks recently included all the aforementioned value plays in its portfolio (and eBay, too), and between 2000 and 2002 -- a period that saw the S&P shed some 37.6% of its value -- it racked up a gain of more than 50%. Talk about investing with a safety net! And speaking of safety nets, to date, all of our recommendations are in the black and have beaten the market by more than 13 percentage points.

You're welcome to give the service a spin -- for free -- and see whether you can't put it to good use. My hunch is it will come in handy as you go about the business of funding (pun definitely intended) your financial future.

This article was originally published on Dec. 12, 2006. It has been updated.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service, and at the time of publication didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Pfizer, Tyco, and Home Depot are Inside Value picks. Yahoo! and eBay are Stock Advisor recommendations. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.