Originally Posted by Amnorix
The consumer has no input over what goes into the basket, it's managed by the mutual fund manager.
You can, of course, directly buy/sell specific stocks. I typically avoid that myself, as I have neither the time nor the skill.
Index funds are generally the better way to go.
There are a hundred million books on these topics, but one very good one that lays out a simple, straight-forward intelligent plan is this one, written by a Wharton professor, which is now on its 12th edition or whatever. It's sort of "timeless" advice for effective investing.
I bought that (used!) recently, along with The Elements of Investing
, co-authored by the writer of "Random Walk" -- it's all directed towards newbies like myself who went to school for history and have no business acumen.