I don't need to leave my front yard to know how bad the economy is right now. Sitting right on my front stoop, I can see the "For Sale" sign that has been at the end of the driveway for the last four months.
Our sale isn't related to the economy. We're building a new house, so we've been planning this move for a long time. "Our house will hit the market in April 2008" has been a key part of that plan for three years now.
Boy, did that turn out to be bad timing.
We put our house on the market at what we thought was a very competitive price -- and within a few weeks, five other houses in our beautiful low-turnover suburban neighborhood had new "For Sale" signs in their yards. And all but one was in our price range. Unprecedented.
Four months later, only one of those houses has sold. We've cut our already-low price twice and had some interest, but nobody has actually stepped up. Buyers are skittish right now.
They know what we know: The U.S. economy is in trouble.
So what about our portfolios?
Stagnant wages, high levels of consumer debt, sluggish growth, the federal deficit, inflation, rising commodity prices... the bad news is everywhere. We've all heard it, and we've all worried about it.
But what do we do? Fool analyst Karl Thiel said recently that he has been "looking at companies that have their risks tied up in something other than the performance of the U.S. economy." As Karl notes, that can mean a lot of things, but one thing it means is investing in non-U.S. companies.
That's a daunting idea for a lot of investors, and for totally understandable reasons. Even if you stick with companies that are traded on the major U.S. exchanges, you still have to consider currency fluctuations, political complexities in countries you may have never visited, language barriers, and a whole host of other brain-busting factors when you evaluate these stocks.
And while you could stick with familiar-but-international names like Toyota
How do we get to the truly international stocks, the ones that might or might not do business in the U.S. but aren't heavily dependent on the state of our economy?
I say if we want to make it easy, we hire an expert. And the easy way to do that is to buy a great mutual fund.
A whole team of experts
Yes, most actively managed mutual funds stink. But some are gems, with low fees, savvy veteran managers, and market-trouncing track records. My fellow Fool Amanda Kish, lead advisor of the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service, has made it her mission to sift through the stinkers to find the gems -- and in the new issue, available online at 4 p.m. ET today, she recommends a really nice international fund, perfect for investors looking to diversify away from the U.S. economy.
One of the great things about this fund is that it is run by a whole team of experts, each of whom is responsible for a specific portion of the overall portfolio. While that can be a recipe for mediocrity on other funds, the different-but-complementary styles of the experts work together beautifully here. Large-cap, small-cap, growth, and value are all represented, with a global focus backed by decades of experience, and the results of the collaboration have been outstanding through a variety of market conditions.
It's not a purely international fund -- its holdings include U.S.-based companies that do significant business overseas, like fertilizer giant Mosaic
So what's the fund? I don't want to spoil the surprise, and you should read Amanda's full review before investing anyway. (Yes, Champion Funds is a paid service, but you can get full access for free for 30 days, so click with confidence.) Don't wait too long, though -- the fund's shares are a bargain at current prices, but interest in diversifying away from the U.S. could change that in a hurry. Take a look today and see what you think.
Fool contributor John Rosevear has no position in the stocks mentioned above. France Telecom and GlaxoSmithKline are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy knows a stinker when it sees one.