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, 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 a small cap (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 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 Est.

CAPS Rating

InfoSpace (Nasdaq: INSP)

$367.8 million

$10.48

33%

20%

**

Isilon Systems (Nasdaq: ISLN)

$467.9 million

$7.20

NC

23%

***

Sinovac Biotech (NYSE: SVA)

$285.3 million

$6.70

71%

29%

***

Taser (Nasdaq: TASR)

$431.9 million

$6.97

250%

30%

***

Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL)

$1.3 billion

$22.96

71%

21%

**

Source: Yahoo.com. NC = not calculable; Isilon Systems earned $0.02 vs. an est. ($0.01) loss.

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 starting with their favorites would be a good place to begin.

An alternative opportunity
Look for the swine flu madness to keep delivering sales for Chinese biotech Sinovac Biotech, even though it might not result in much profit. The pandemic-that-wasn't still has that country's government stockpiling the H1N1 vaccine that Sinovac produced, but when it released updated guidance last month it indicated the government might change its mind about paying. Sinovac said it received as scheduled the $29 million in December due upon delivering the vaccines, but noted there is a risk the government could "unilaterally adjust the price" by the time it prepares its financial statements.

Considering that GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), Novartis (NYSE: NVS), and AstraZeneca might also be affected as governments around the globe realize they're not going to need as much vaccine as they previously thought and seek to renegotiate their purchases, investors might want to consider Sinovac's risk potential more of a reality.

Yet China is still buying vaccines so Sinovac Biotech should continue to see growing sales. It's expected to deliver another 8.5 million doses by March 15. It just may not be at rates as high as was previously expected.

CAPS members like gmdraves like an investment in the biotech because of this continuing purchase program, but it does highlight the risks of trying to gauge which illness will rise to the level of a serious threat.

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!

Novartis AG is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. The Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline. 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.