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Start Small With Top Stock Pickers

These six mutual funds with stellar managers carry low minimum investment requirements.

Although many of the big fund shops demand at least $2,500 for you to open an account, a handful of funds run by all-star managers will still let you start smallÑor start a small account for that up-and-coming investor in your life.

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For just $250, you can invest in the Hodges fund, which holds all sizes of companies with strong growth prospects. Its record is one of the best for any stock fund. Since Don Hodges started the fund in 1992, the annualized return has been 14%. The expense ratio is 1.47% per year.

If cheaply priced stocks are more your style, consider Homestead Value. Since 1990, Stuart Teach and Peter Morris have been buying beaten-down large and midsize companies. Homestead Value has delivered an annualized 10% over the past decade. The minimum is $500, and the expense ratio is just 0.71%.

For $250, you can buy a socially screened portfolio. Pax World Balanced avoids firms with significant revenues from weapons, gambling or tobacco. Since manager Chris Brown came aboard in April 1998, Pax has delivered an annualized 8%. Annual expenses are a reasonable 0.97%.

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A grand will get you into a handful of our top-rated Kiplinger 25 funds. These include Bill Miller's go-anywhere, buy-anything Legg Mason Opportunity Trust, Bill Nygren's Oakmark Select and the large-company-focused Selected American Shares, managed by Chris Davis and Ken Feinberg.

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