The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, turned an initial bankroll of $10,000 into a multibillion-dollar conglomerate. Shelby Davis began with $50,000, and he amassed a $900 million fortune. These inspiring stories give us all hope that we'll be able to achieve our own financial dreams. But what if you don't have $50,000, or $10,000, or even $5,000 to get started?

Fear not, Fool -- you aren't doomed to penury and misery. You don't need to be a trust-fund baby to start securing your financial future. Just follow these four simple steps:

  1. Start today!
  2. Invest regularly. Every month, put away $250, $100, or even $50.
  3. Look to the stock market for your best hope of realizing your dreams.
  4. Seek undervalued small-cap stocks for your greatest returns.

Why small caps?
Because they offer the greatest potential for market-beating returns. Institutions tend to ignore these tiny stocks, and analysts don't cover them. By the time anyone realizes they're there, they've already grown and appreciated in price.

To find these future giants, we'll screen for stocks with:

  • Market values less than $3 billion, to qualify as small caps (but no micro caps)
  • Earnings surprise of 20% or more last quarter
  • Long-term earnings growth potential of at least 20%

We'll filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the more than 140,000 professional and novice investors in our Motley Fool CAPS community. If the best and brightest CAPS players think these stocks hold potential, then we ought to take notice, too.

Here are some of the stocks this simple screen found:

Company

Market Cap

Share Price

EPS Surprise

Median Analyst 5-Yr. EPS Est.

CAPS Rating

TiVo
(NASDAQ:TIVO)

$1.1 billion

$10.55

40%

40%

**

China Green Agriculture
(NYSE:CGA)

$283 million

$12.12

26%

24%

****

Metalico
(NYSE:MEA)

$188.3 million

$4.66

150%

30%

*****

Tessera Technologies
(NASDAQ:TSRA)

$1.4 billion

$28.53

71%

27%

**

Fuel Systems Solutions
(NASDAQ:FSYS)

$645 million

$36.31

71%

31%

***

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Of course, this is not a list of stocks to buy. This is a starting point for more research. We need to look more closely at these companies to see if analysts' faith in them is well-founded, but we've got the CAPS community helping us here, and their favorites would be a good place to begin.

Skeptical of a skeptic
Does that make you a believer? It's possible to walk the middle road in the Middle Kingdom, but you still might want to believe in China's leading the world's economies out of the recession. The massive $600 billion cash giveaway that the country let loose earlier this year helped spur heady economic growth so far this year, leading the Asian Development Bank to forecast that the country will hit its 8% growth rate target for the full year.

Organic fertilizer producer China Green Agriculture has been feeding the growth frenzy, and shares have nearly quadrupled year to date. While that's pushed up its valuation significantly, the underlying story is one that has encouraged investors to consider Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (NYSE:POT) and Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) to also be good, long-term investments: People need to eat, and fertilizer is needed to grow the crops that feed them. In China, that might be even truer than elsewhere.

Reluctant to adopt new technologies, CAPS member Docendo says China Green Agriculture will benefit from farmers maintaining their organic methods of production.

Yet there are risks, too. The Chinese government is actively supporting conversion to modern agricultural methods as it continues to invest in the country's main grain export hubs. But highly rated CAPS All-Star member marc64 simply sees that as underscoring the opportunity in China Green:

Finally, China is very serious about their food supplies, buying huge tracts of land in the Global South, securing exporting agreements that assure the food products will not have to go through local markets, but straight back to China. China will ensure that they have the agricultural chemicals infrastructure to complement their strategic and vital ag interests, and CGA is one young beneficiary of that plan.

Foolish final thoughts
Academics will tell you that individual investors have little chance of beating the stock market. They say that the Warren Buffetts, Shelby Davises, and Peter Lynches are the exceptions to the rule. We at The Motley Fool don't agree. Stock investing is not brain surgery. Finding good, undervalued companies is not as difficult as the professionals want you to think.

It is possible to make a more comfortable retirement for yourself, even if you have little money to start with or are starting late in life. It is possible to turn $100 into $1 million. You just have to commit: Do it now, and do it regularly. No amount is too small. Let's get started. There's no time to lose!

China Green Agriculture is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.