The Boston Globe

Call it another skirmish in the battle between the
passive stock market index mutual funds and the
actively managed funds.

At stake: the hearts and minds of investors, not to
mention their pocketbooks.

This Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the founding
of the Vanguard 500 Index fund, the granddaddy of
index funds.

And to mark the occasion, the Valley Forge, Pa.-based
fund family proudly touts the fund's track record on
its Web site -14.05 percent annual total return since
inception, outpacing the average general equity fund's
13.84 percent over the same period - under the
headline "An Investing 'Folly' Turns 25."

Last month marked the 20th anniversary of Fidelity's
Select Health Care Portfolio, one of the Boston firm's
first actively managed funds to focus on a sector.

And to mark that occasion, Fidelity announced a few
weeks ago that its health care fund was the
best-performing mutual fund in the last 20 years, with
a load-adjusted 20.46 percent average annual return,
according to Lipper data.

What is an investor to do, based on these and other
arguments for both sides? Funds that passively mimic a
stock index like the Standard & Poor's 500, or funds
that are actively managed?

Well, hold on to your pocketbooks until you do a
little more research into the numbers and assess your
own situation.

According to Morningstar, the company that popularized
star ratings for mutual funds, there seems to be
plenty more to know about Vanguard 500 and Fidelity's
health care fund.

For instance, because the Fidelity fund is actively
managed, with stocks more frequently bought and sold
than in the index fund, taxes take more of a bite out
of the return, according to data on
If you own the sector fund in a taxable account, that
may be an issue, but if you own it inside a
tax-deferred account, that may not be.

The 500 index, on the other hand, tends to perform
worse than the health fund in a bear market, according
Responsible credit

Credit card promotions on college campuses are
probably as common as rush parties and freshmen
orientations these days.

Now a Web site called says it wants
to teach students how to use credit responsibly, by
offering a free e-mail bill reminder service and a
"Debt Pay-Off" contest. One hundred contest finalists
will be picked and announced on Oct. 22, and the
finalists will have to submit a 250-word essay on why
the company should pay off their credit card debt. Ten
winners will be given a payoff check on Nov. 26.

Students can definitely use help managing money, if a
1999 youth and money survey by the American Savings
Education Council is any indication. The survey found
that 28 percent of youths aged 16 to 22 said they have
a major credit card, and 28 percent with cards said
they never pay their balance in full.

But perhaps the scariest finding from the survey was
that 22 percent of kids said they would buy a pair of
jeans they really wanted even if they didn't have the
money to pay for it, by using a credit card.

Whether is the answer to the
mounting student debt problem remains to be seen.
While the site offers information about good credit
management, it also allows online applications for
student credit cards that it's promoting.

And is it just a coincidence that the "Debt Pay-Off"
checks are being given out at the height of the
Christmas shopping season, when it's easy to start
charging again?