To say it's been a difficult year for investors might be an understatement. The bond market has, thus far, delivered its worst year on record, while the benchmark S&P 500 produced its worst first-half return since 1970. Were this not enough, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, which has been largely responsible for pushing the stock market to new heights, has plunged as much as 38% from its all-time high.

While miserable years for the equity markets can feel demoralizing, they've historically represented an opportune time to go on the offensive. Every double-digit percentage decline in the major U.S. stock indexes has eventually (key word!) been cleared away by a bull market, and this bear-market decline will undoubtedly join that list at some point.

An up-close view of Benjamin Franklin's portrait on a one hundred dollar bill that's set against a very dark background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Perhaps best of all, you no longer need a mountain of cash to build wealth on Wall Street. Since most online brokerages have done away with commission fees and minimum deposit requirements, any amount of money -- even $100 -- can be the ideal amount to put to work.

If you have $100 ready to invest right now, which won't be needed to pay bills or cover emergencies, adding it to the following five stocks would be a genius move.

Ford Motor Company

The first smart buy with $100 -- especially for value investors -- is auto stock Ford Motor Company (F 0.17%). Although supply chain disruptions and historic inflation are adversely impacting production in the short run, Ford has a flurry of catalysts in its sails and a minuscule forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than 8.

To begin with, Ford's F-Series pickups have been the best-selling domestic vehicle for 40 consecutive years. Considering that trucks and SUVs generate a higher vehicle margin than sedans, the importance of this F-Series success can't be overstated enough.

Beyond its combustion-engine success are Ford's ambitions in the alternative energy arena. Ford has earmarked $50 billion for electric vehicle (EV) research with the goal of rolling out 30 new EV models worldwide by the end of 2025. This includes the all-electric Ford Lightning, which had racked up around 200,000 reservations near the end of last year. Ford had to halt new orders because it wouldn't have been able to meet demand if it kept taking reservations.

And don't forget about China, the world's No. 1 auto market. China's EV market is currently nascent, but Ford has an established presence and the infrastructure necessary to become a key player overseas.

Antero Midstream

For income seekers, natural gas company Antero Midstream (AM 0.54%) (with its 8.3% dividend yield!) looks like a genius buy right now. Though most oil and gas stocks have been exceptionally volatile since the pandemic began, Antero Midstream offers a couple of factors that should help its shareholders sleep easy at night.

The biggest advantage Antero Midstream brings to the table is its midstream operating model. Antero operates as an energy middleman, with natural gas driller Antero Resources its primary customer. As a middleman, it relies entirely on long-term, fixed-fee contracts that remove the effects of inflation and natural gas spot-price changes from the equation. In other words, Antero Midstream's operating cash flow is highly predictable no matter what happens with the spot price of natural gas.

However, it's worth pointing out that natural gas prices have a good shot at remaining well above average for the foreseeable future. Reduced investment by energy companies during the pandemic, along with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, will constrain global energy supply and likely entice drillers to expand production.

Interestingly, Antero Resources is increasing drilling on Antero Midstream-owned acreage. This production boost is expected to result in $200 million in incremental free cash flow for Antero Midstream through 2025. 

A lab researcher using a pipette to place liquid samples into a row of test tubes.

Image source: Getty Images.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries

Adding $100 to pharmaceutical stock Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA -1.23%) would also be a genius move to make right now. Despite facing a mountain of litigation and contending with softness in generic-drug pricing, Teva looks like a steal of a deal for patient investors.

The biggest catalyst working in Teva's favor is the expected resolution of nationwide opioid litigation against the company and numerous peers. While the company could be liable for up to $4.2 billion for its role in the U.S. opioid epidemic, this is a significantly lower number than the company could have faced in individual courtrooms across the United States. Putting the lion's share of litigation in the rearview mirror should allow Teva's ultra-cheap, price-to-earnings ratio of less than 4 stand out to value investors.

CEO Kare Schultz has been a significant benefit to Teva as well. Though Schultz will leave the company once his contract expires next November, he's helped whittle the company's net debt from more than $34 billion to $19 billion in five years. This new-found financial flexibility should allow the company to reinvest in promising brand-name drugs.

And speaking of promising brand-name drugs, Austedo, a drug used to treat tardive dyskinesia and the involuntary movements associated with Huntington's disease, is on pace to top $1 billion in sales this year.

Green Thumb Industries

Another smart way to put $100 to work right now is in U.S. pot stock Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF 3.48%). Not even a lack of cannabis-reform progress at the federal level can take the buzz out of this multistate operator (MSO).

When the third quarter came to a close, Green Thumb had 77 open dispensaries in 15 legalized states. While some of these dispensaries are in high-dollar markets, such as California, Colorado, and Florida, Green Thumb has been focusing most of its attention on opening stores in limited-license markets. States that purposely limit the number of retail licenses issued ensure newer entrants and smaller players have a fair chance to build a loyal following.

But the real differentiator for Green Thumb is its revenue mix. More than half the company's sales derive from edibles, beverages, pre-rolled joints, beauty products, and vapes. Derivative pot products come with higher price points and much juicier margins than traditional dried cannabis flower.

Whereas most marijuana stocks are still looking for their first profitable quarter, Green Thumb has delivered nine consecutive quarters of profits, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Okta

The fifth and final stock where adding $100 would represent a genius move right now is cybersecurity company Okta (OKTA 1.14%). Even though Okta has admittedly run into integration issues tied to its Auth0 acquisition, there are bountiful reasons for patient shareholders to be excited about the future.

On a macro basis, cybersecurity has evolved into a basic necessity service. No matter how well or poorly the U.S. economy is performing, robots and hackers are always waiting in the wings to steal sensitive data. With businesses moving their data into the cloud at an accelerated pace in the wake of the pandemic, the onus of protecting data and user identities is increasingly falling to third-party providers like Okta.

What makes Okta tick is its cloud-native identity-verification platform that relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to get the job done. Being built in the cloud and leaning on AI presumably allows Okta's identity-verification solutions to be nimbler and more efficient at recognizing and responding to potential threats than on-premises solutions.

While the company's Auth0 buyout has been a recent drag, it's a key puzzle piece to sustaining a roughly 20% top-line growth rate. The advantage of owning Auth0 is it opens the door for Okta to penetrate the European market. These added sales channels should help push Okta toward recurring profitability.