If you're a performance hunter, last week's column was a bit of a disappointment. Searching through a list of 234 domestic equity funds that have survived for 20 years, only 31 did better than the Vanguard 500 Index. That means the odds are really, really poor that any of us will do better than a low cost broad index fund, whatever the advertisements say.

And that raises some questions. Have investors who have made their own selections given themselves good advice? Have investors who have sought advice been well advised?

In both cases, the evidence isn't encouraging.

Let's take a look at some of the no-load funds first.

Shareholders in the $1.3 billion American Century Vista fund trailed the S&P 500 Index by 2.57 a year, for 20 years. They also trailed the index in the last 3, 10, and 15 year periods. There is a bit of good news here: while many of the no load funds trailed the index over 20 years, I had to eliminate them because their performance improved in the more recent measuring periods.

Sell side propaganda tells us that self-advised investors are a nervous, shifty lot. They pick the wrong funds. They buy them at the wrong time. And then they sell them so they can lose more money in another fund. Stalwart advisors, however, carefully select leading funds, earn superior returns in rising markets, and encourage their clients to suck it up during falling markets. All of which leads to superior long-term returns and well-rested shareholders.

What the broker/advisor doesn't tell you is that the real difference between fund A and fund B may not be your investment performance. It may be her company paid trip to Acapulco.

Altruists who believe in Broker Care should consider these examples of Funds-That-Deserve-To-Be-Dead.

•  AIM Charter (A shares), with over $2 billion in assets, has trailed the index by 1.92 percent a year for 20 years. It has also trailed the index for the last 1, 3, 5, 10, and 15 years.

•  Morgan Stanley American Opportunity (B shares) has some $4.4 billion in assets but trailed the index by 1.83 percent a year. Like AIM Charter, it has trailed the index in the last 1,3,5,10, and 15 years.

•  MFS Massachusetts Investors Growth Stock (A shares), one of the oldest funds in existence, has nearly $6.8 billion in assets but has trailed the index by 1.36 points a year--- for 20 years. Indeed, recent performance figures from Morningstar show that the fund has trailed the S&P 500 over the last 1, 3, 5, and 10 year periods. It did beat the index over the last 15 years.

•  Van Kampen Emerging Growth (A shares) has nearly $4.4 billion in assets but trailed the index by 1.23 percent a year. It has had its moments, beating the index over the trailing 5 and 15-year periods, but the bottom line for long-term holders is that an index fund would be better and less volatile.

•  The same happened with AXP Equity Select (A shares). It still has nearly $1.5 billion in assets although it has trailed the S&P 500 Index by 1.01 percent a year for 20 years. It beat the index over the last 3 and 5-year periods, but trailed it over the last 1,10, and 15 years.

Why aren't these funds dead after decades of market trailing performance?   They earn too much money for the brokers that sell them and for the firms that collect the management fees. Curiously, refunds have not been offered.

Individuals who make poor fund choices have an excuse: ignorance. For the sell side community it isn't ignorance.

It's marketing.