Winning Over and Over and Over

These mutual funds take the trophy for consistent results over the long haul.

It may not be obvious why you should put stock, so to speak, in consistency. After all, you'll double your money in five years whether a fund returns 14.9% each year or whether it earns 100% in the first year, loses 50% the next, makes another 100%, loses 50% and then climbs 100% again.

But we think consistency matters for two reasons. First, the more often managers beat their peers and their benchmarks, the greater the likelihood that skill, rather than luck, is driving their performance. If a superior long-term record is the product of one or two fabulous years, be wary.

But consistency also counts when it comes to your behavior. As Morningstar data on what investors actually earn (as opposed to fund-reported returns) have shown, people often pile into funds after they've sizzled and bail out of them after they've fizzled (see Your Real Total Return, Jan. 2007). So, you're less likely to buy high and sell low if you invest in steady Eddies rather than wacky Willies.

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We don't mean to suggest that consistency is all that matters when selecting a fund. Morningstar analyst Paul Herbert suggests that investors should "combine consistency with other factors, such as low expenses, experienced management and a reasonable strategy." But funds that deliver consistently good results deserve a bit of extra consideration.

You can measure consistency in a variety of ways. We asked Morningstar to help us identify consistent performers from four different perspectives. Funds that appear in more than one of our groupings are marked with an asterisk.

Index Beaters

These selected funds have beaten their benchmarks in at least 85% of calendar years since 1990.

Index Beaters 2

These selected funds are at least five years old and have outpaced their benchmarks in at least 85% of rolling 12-month periods.

In the Black

These selected funds have delivered positive total returns in at least 90% of calendar years, including the first half of 2007.

10% or Bust

These selected funds have delivered double-digit returns in at least 80% of calendar years and at least 5% in the first half of 2007.

The Complete List (opens in new tab)

See all the funds that meet our four criteria.

Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance