Real estate funds got pounded, but a few are worth a look

Which ones? All three managers favor REITs with lots of cash and a proven ability to find deals in tough times. Alpine's Lieber likes Ventas vtr, which invests in health care properties. The company had $46 million in cash at the end of June. Both Curbo and Johnson like Simon PropertiesSPG, currently sitting on a cool $2.6 billion in cash.

If you're not in the mood to pick REITs, then consider a real estate fund.

Do you need a real estate fund in your portfolio? Although there's some evidence that real estate is a good diversifier, it's not essential for your overall financial health. If you want decent income over time, however, and you're willing to take some lumps over the next few months, a real estate fund might give you some concrete returns over time.

John Waggoner is a personal finance columnist for USA TODAY. His Investing column appears Fridays. His book, Bailout: What the Rescue of Bear Stearns and the Credit Crisis Mean for Your Investments, is available through John Wiley & Sons. Click here for an index of Investing columns. His e-mail is jwaggoner@usatoday.com. Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnwaggoner.

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