Mutual Funds For Dummies
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Now that the market is roaring back to simple mediocrity, investors are thinking of ways to invest wisely, spread risk, and maximize opportunities to grow value while at the same time maintaining shirt integrity. As always, mutual funds are high on anybody's list.

With increasing frequency, investors are looking to find attractively themed mutual funds that express their social, political, fashion, or dietary choices. So today we offer a bouquet of funds that could, just maybe, turn the next decade into one of prosperity, hope, and fun. Readers are reminded that the statements that follow are forward-looking, backward-looking, and occasionally sideways-glancing; contain little valuable information; are loaded with risks both real and imaginary; and should be heeded with discretion or, better still, not at all.

With all that in mind, onward!

First on my list of options is always the Chickenheart Fund for the Weak-Livered. This approach offers the cowardly investor a group of safe securities that will go nowhere but up, albeit slowly, unless they fail to do so, in which case they will almost certainly remain rock-solid, most of the time, except when they go down, if only slightly, one would hope. Included on this list are all the investments people have been making for years, agglomerated into one attractive, well-balanced package of stocks in the fields of computers and their software, telecommunications, health care, tiny switches that have something to do with the Internet, and other industries that are going nowhere but up for the next couple of thousand years. Right now my portfolio has lost only 52% of its value, and I'm sure this fund could do much better ... until deflation arrives.

For those a little more daring comes the Vice Fund. This group operates under the principle that man's bad habits will always be with him, and also her, for women are by no means immune to wickedness, although they are somewhat better overall than men are. Falling under this broad umbrella are makers of distilled spirits, producers of wine and beer, tobacco merchants, and purveyors of salami, bacon, and fatty cheese. Fur is included. Because a fair portion of our destructive energy comes from electricity and fossil fuels, nuclear power and oil companies are represented here, as are companies that provide the ordnance to keep our reserves of oil around the world safe from those who would use them for improper purposes.

At the opposite end of the scale is the Prince Mishkin Fund, a quiver of ethical arrows aimed at the heart of rapacious global capitalism. In this collection are, for instance, cosmetics companies that do not torture animals in the fabrication of their products ... although, come to think of it, there are those who believe that cosmetics themselves pander to the insecurities of women, particularly young women, so perhaps cosmetics is not a perfect example. Food companies that provide low-cost products to the poor are a good choice, except that it's possible they sometimes sell goods that don't meet standards for human consumption in more affluent nations, which could be a problem for sticklers. Developers of renewable energy resources are attractive, particularly since so many are priced under $1. Also on the list are pharmaceutical firms that provide drugs cheaply to the elderly. Let me know if you find one.

There's the Poppinger Hedge Everything Fund. It is run by a canny collection of short, bald economists who work at evaluating the tiny differences between what certain commodities are trading at and what they might be trading at in the next couple of days, minutes, or seconds. They also look at the cost of money, which is generally pretty outrageous, I think you'll agree. They then take the differentials and bet both ways on them and at the end come out with teeny profits of just a penny or two, and sometimes even a ha'penny or less, on each transaction. At times, in fact, it adds up to nothing more than a couple of trading stamps and a little lint. But those who have a couple of hundred thousand dollars to play with can reap profits in the high three figures, and those with a couple of billion at their disposal can be in clover.

Perhaps most controversial is the new Moguls Inc. Fund, which tracks the personal investments of 12 power brokers who have made their fortunes in the market and show no sign of slippage. There are few moments as proud, possibly, as when you are able to tell a hushed gathering that you just bought a big piece of something because Sandy Weill did too.

Finally, there is the very exclusive, very select enterprise known as Federally Insured Banks, In-Ground Safes, and Hefty Bags. The name is self-explanatory, I think.

I'll give you three guesses where I'm putting my money, and the first two don't count.