Smarter Money, Part 2: Step Right Up, $2,500 a Pop Into 50 Funds

The trader unveils the funds he'll invest in, and then track and harangue them for you.
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When you have to put $2,500 apiece to work in 50 mutual funds to learn more about them and get the skinny on each, you tend to want to put the money to work with a fund that you have heard of.

But I just didn't know all of these funds and I recruited my assistant, Melissa Kasper, to help me figure out which ones were still open, which ones had the right minimums -- some were too high -- and which ones were worth investigating.

Our methodology was a bit haphazard in that we wanted to find out more about almost every large fund family, so we picked some funds as representatives of these famous families. We picked others because we thought they should be studied because they intrigued us. Still others got the nod because of their long-term records. And others got picked because I know or like the manager personally and wanted to give him or her a shot at running some of my money. Oh, yeah, and some were picked because they were such incessant promoters that I wanted to hold their feet to the fire.

Here are the funds and a little squib on each. As we go along with this, I will constantly fill you in on what I see happening with them, and I will be anxious to see which ones justify the fee and which one really doesn't deserve a dime. I intend to make noise with the latter and praise the former, so it will be a mixed blessing to take my money. It will be good news if you do a fine job and bad news if you do poorly. Hmm, just like in sports!!

First, the widely helds:

AIM Value

: With $30 billion under management, this widely held fund needs to be learned about. I have always liked this family and its managers, so I look forward to the results.

Alliance Premier Growth

: A worthy representative of a worthy fund family.

American Century Ultra

: I used to recommend this fund to all my friends but got a little tired of it when it got too big. But these folk are excellent stock pickers.

Berger Small Company Growth

: This is an

Investors Business Daily

fund, one that is in the index. It used to have more pizazz but I like its numbers lately.

Davis New York Venture

: Widely held and widely promoted fund family.

Fidelity Aggressive Growth

: Big representative from a big fund family, one my dad likes.

Fidelity Blue Chip Growth

: My kids' Uniform Gift money resides in this fund because of its consistency in good and bad markets.

Gabelli Growth

: Well-run fund and well-run family. See the

profile in

TSC

Friday.

Harbor Capital Appreciation

: I picked this because it was once a favorite of

TSC

.

Invesco Dynamics

: Widely held fund from respected family of funds.

Investment Company of America

: Picked because of its immense size. Over 50 billion. I want to know if this is just an index fund or an index fund with a brain!

Janus Fund

: Long a favorite, too big and too great to ignore with $47 billion.

Janus Mercury

: For my money, you can't get enough Janus.

Kemper-Dreman High Return Fund

: I picked this guy because David Dreman made fun of me in

Forbes

after I had knocked him. One good turn deserves another.

Legg Mason Value

: Popular cult figure Bill Miller is actually a great guy, and I want money with the man who spotted

AOL

before anybody.

MFS Midcap Growth

: The first mutual fund family, and I want to stay in touch with them as I knocked one of their funds already for

minuscule disclosure.

Merrill Lynch Global Growth

: Fund representation from a major fund family run by a big broker.

Morgan Stanley American Opportunities

: See above.

Oakmark Select

: Some turmoil at Oakmark made me want to see what is happening and see if they can get a turn going.

Putnam Voyager

: Big, well-run fund that I have always liked, with great managers.

Scudder International

: I always have thought these were the best international managers.

Smith Barney Aggressive Growth

: An

IBD

-followed fund (it is in the index) and seems like a fence-swinger, I want a couple of those. Gotta get some

Buzz

and some

Batch

!

Strong Growth Fund

: I met the guy who runs this family and he impressed me as one smart fellow, so we want to give him a shot.

Van Kampen Emerging Growth

: Fund family representation. Widely held.

White Oak Growth Stock

: A popular favorite of many of our readers so I wanted to check it out.

My private choices:

American Century Emerging Markets

: One of the top emerging-markets funds, and you have to find out what is going on in that market.

Amerindo Tech

: One of the worst performers this year but the top one last year so it is a must.

Bear Stearns S&P

: Index fund with a brain by nature!

Berkshire Focus

: Guy keeps showing me this great record, so I wanted to go long. Persistent salesman for his fund that goes through the transom.

Blackrock Global Science and Tech

: Manager last year had 200% return. That fund is closed so I wanted to glom onto his record with this fund.

CGM Realty

: Top fund manager Heebner, plus stupid, unrelenting ad campaign.

Dreyfus Premier Tech Growth

: One of last year's best.

Fidelity Select Electronics

: Great track record over time. My IRA mainstay for 16 years.

Fidelity Select Technology

: Same as above.

First American Technology

: Top-performing tech fund last year.

Gabelli Global Telecom

: Managed by Gabelli, class outfit, got to know more.

Janus Special Situations

: Can't get enough Janus. Might switch to

Orion

when that starts up.

John Hancock Financial

: Jim Schmidt, who does too much TV, runs this fund. I think this group is bottoming and I want the exposure.

Liberty-Stein-Roe Young Investors

: Run by Erik Gustafson, one of my all-time favorite managers and a great guy.

He

is really good! Even

Jeff Berkowitz

likes him and he doesn't like anybody.

Marsico Focus

: Left Janus to start Marisco. Good bloodlines.

Murphy New World Biotech

: Run by Lissa Morganthaler, who is one smart manager. Great numbers this year.

Olstein Financial Alert

: Bob is a friend but he wouldn't get a dime if he weren't a great manager. Great record. Still think he looks like

Gary Carter

.

PBHG Technology & Communications

: Good tech fund bouncing back from personnel problems.

Pilgrim Growth Opportunities Fund

: Much-televised Mary Lisanti and a home run/strikeout philosophy if there ever was one.

Reserve Small Cap Growth:

So

many of these funds are closed it was hard to find one. This one looks good.

Seligman Communications and Information

: Run by associate of mine, Paul Wick. Great numbers.

T. Rowe Price Science and Tech fund

: World-class stock pickers.

Vanguard Star

: The only one that would accept $2,500 (too little) at this great fund family where I personally bank.

Waddell & Reed Science and Tech

: One of the worst of second quarter but great last year. Looking for a bounce.

Warburg Pincus Global Post Venture

: Top global equity last year.

We will be sending out the $125,000 to these folks in $2,500 dollops, so stay tuned and watch for the score card, players and team yearbook! Right here, at

TheStreet.com

.

Here's a look at the performance of the Cramer 50.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long AOL. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.