If you get sweaty palms just thinkingabout putting money into a mutual fundbecause of the almost daily revelationsof hanky-panky, take the advice of veteranWall Streeters. Despite the misconducton the part of some fund managers,they say, mutual funds are still the smallinvestor's best route into the market. Forone thing, they're cheap. If you stayaway from front-end-load and highexpense-ratio funds, you can put togethera first-class portfolio of mutual fundsand pay less than 1% in expenses. If yougo for rock-bottom index funds, yourcosts could come in as low as 0.3%.Funds also lower your risk, assumingyou don't indulge in risky sector funds,by providing the instant diversificationof hundreds of stocks for a relativelysmall initial investment. Tip: Avoidfunds that have been tarred by scandalallegations; aim for shareholder-friendlyfunds like TIAA-CREF (www.tiaa-cref.org) and Vanguard (www.vanguard.com).