If you've ever invested in mutual funds, you've probably run across a prospectus or two, though perhaps you never gave one a close look. We know -- reading a prospectus sounds as much fun as perusing the phone book. But knowing your fund's prospectus will teach you a lot.

A prospectus is a booklet that describes a mutual fund's goals, fees, risks, policies, and investment style. It should show you how well the fund has performed in the past and how much money it will make off you, while giving you an idea of how it will invest your money.

If you're thinking of buying shares of a mutual fund, you should obtain and read its latest prospectus. Mutual funds are required to provide prospectuses to help investors make informed decisions. You can request them from the mutual fund company. Many such companies make prospectuses available electronically on their websites.

Click on the following links to review the prospectuses and/or info for some funds whose managers we admire: Legg Mason's Value Trust (.pdf) and Focus Trust (.pdf), Oakmark funds, Marty Whitman's Third Avenue Value and Third Avenue Small-Cap Value funds. You can learn a lot more about picking the best funds in our Mutual Funds area.

And if you'd rather invest in individual stocks than in mutual funds, consider checking out our stock recommendation newsletters, which will deliver several investment ideas each month.

For more Foolishness, visit our Personal Finance area, our Investing Basics area, and our Fool's School. You can also learn a lot via our acclaimed How-to Guides and online seminars and our book, The Motley Fool Money Guide: Answers to Your Questions About Saving, Spending and Investing .