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Best-Performing Funds Over the Past 20 Years

A fractional difference in annual performance can have a huge impact over long periods of time. For example, the Vanguard Health Care Fund's 20-year annualized performance is only 87 basis points (0.87 percentage points) better than the next best performer, yet over 20 years a $10,000 initial investment in that fund ended up worth $31,266 more than that of the runner up.

A differential in returns of less than a percentage point rewarded investors with a holding worth a total of 16.2% more -- $224,703 vs. $193,436 -- when held for 20 years. That's something to keep in mind before downplaying "minor" percentage differences in factors such as expense ratios when evaluating funds.

Richard Widows is a financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.
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