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:

  • Start today!
  • Invest regularly. Every month, put away $250, $100, even $50.
  • Look to the stock market for your best hope of realizing your dreams.
  • 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 a small cap (but no microcaps).
  • An earnings surprise of 20% or more for the latest quarter.
  • Long-term earnings growth potential of at least 20%.             

We'll filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the more than 150,000 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-Year EPS Estimate

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Joe's Jeans (NASDAQ:JOEZ)

$125.1 million

$2.02

400%

30%

***

LTX-Credence (NASDAQ:LTXC)

$331.0 million

$2.66

400%

20%

****

Luminex (NASDAQ:LMNX)

$613.7 million

$15.10

71%

31%

**

Suntech Power (NYSE:STP)

$2.5 billion

$14.22

100%

26%

****

Thoratec (NASDAQ:THOR)

$1.7 billion

$28.84

23%

23%

**

Source: Yahoo.com.

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, and starting with their favorites would be a good idea.

An alternative opportunity
With Suntech Power being the world's largest manufacturer of polysilicon solar panels, it's natural that its stock would succumb to the market's fickleness, and every cut in tariff in Germany, Spain, and Italy reverberates back home for this Chinese leading player.

Yet the potential for a slowing business overseas has Suntech seeing greater opportunities here in the U.S. Already the Obama administration is giving it $3 billion in subsidies to build a new assembly plant in Arizona as it looks to increase its share of the market from just 15% now to 20%. First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) scored a $16 million coup from the government to expand its operations.

Since polysilicon prices are expected to drop by as much as a third this year, jeopardizing LDK Solar's (NYSE:LDK) price advantage, Suntech might find its U.S. opportunities heating up with the summer sun.

Despite the risks associated with dwindling worldwide subsidies for solar energy, investors remain confident that Suntech Power won't be one that wilts. More than 96% of the CAPS members who have rated the stock look for it to outperform the market, with tpk225 seeing the PV panel maker having some distinct advantages:

I might be shooting myself in the foot on this one, but SunTech has a couple things going for them. They are the largest producer of solar panels in the world, they are sold out till late 2010, and the suns energy will not cease for several billion years. Solar will get more popular and affordable after the economic slump.

Foolish final thoughts
Academics will tell you that individual investors have little chance of beating the stock market. They say 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!

First Solar and Suntech Power Holdings are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.