Do you have a mutual fund that's a loser? One you hate? One that has been draining your 401(k) of your hard-earned savings since October...

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Do you have a mutual fund that’s a loser? One you hate? One that has been draining your 401(k) of your hard-earned savings since October?

Say, for example, you have a mutual fund that invests in large companies — a fund that might have “large cap” in its name and invest in stocks like Google, Wal-Mart Stores and Exxon Mobil.

If so, it would not be surprising if you have lost 13 percent of the money you had in the fund in early October.

A college graduate student thought a drop of 13 percent was reason to sell his fund. “I’ve lost $3,000 in my mutual fund,” he complained to me recently, as he sought an idea for a “better fund.”

But as I told him and others, a loss in a mutual fund is not necessarily a reason to sell.

Novice investors often see a loss and think they have bought the wrong fund. They figure a brainier manager at another fund would steer away from bad stocks and make their money grow. They don’t realize that at times like this, with investors nervous and selling a range of stocks, every mutual fund that invests in stocks is likely to lose money, at least temporarily.

To determine if a fund manager is performing adequately, the manager’s boss would compare the fund’s loss to the stock market in general. For large stocks, that means using the Standard & Poor’s 500 index as a measure. That index was down 13.8 percent in that period. So a large-cap fund that loses just 13 percent over the same time period would be a little above average.

While the fund feels like a loser, it’s actually a winner — comparatively speaking.

Financial advisers look for funds that have done at least as well as the market and competing mutual funds for five years or more.

You can see how a fund measures up to other funds by going to www.morningstar.com. On the home page, type in the fund’s name and get its ticker, the five letters that identify the fund. After you click, scroll down to “total returns” in the gray box on the left. Click on that. Under “trailing total returns,” notice the far-right column “% rank in category” and see how your fund stands.