Achieving financial success doesn't require you to have the investing acumen of Warren Buffett or be a trust fund baby to start securing your financial future.

Since the stock market is our best hope for realizing our dreams, start investing today by putting away small sums of money every month. Then seek out undervalued small-cap stocks for your greatest returns. I like these because they offer opportunities for growth, while still being mostly overlooked by the big investors.

To find these future giants, we'll screen for stocks with market values less than $3 billion, had earnings surprise of 20% or more last quarter, and are forecast to have long-term earnings growth potential of at least 20%. We'll filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the 160,000 members 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

Avg. Analyst 5-Year
EPS Estimate

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Amerigon

$237 million

$11.03

100%

23%

**

Deckers Outdoors
(Nasdaq: DECK)

$1.8 billion

$140.34

22%

23%

**

Itron

$2.9 billion

$71.60

37%

24%

****

NCR
(NYSE: NCR)

$2.2 billion

$13.94

42%

21%

****

Northgate Minerals
(NYSE: NXG)

$913 million

$3.14

233%

21%

****

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, Earnings.com, Yahoo.com, and Motley Fool CAPS.

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
Not every junior gold miner is worthy of investor attention, but when you're a small cap like Northgate Minerals that's flush with cash and offer up enticing production numbers, well, you quickly become worthy of some speculative risk.

CAPS member 37weeks admits Northgate has had its share of troubles in the past, and even now its cost of gold extraction is relatively high when compared to other juniors like Taseko Mines (NYSE: TGB). Yet 37weeks figures the cash cushion will allow for some big surprises: "Northgate Minerals have had some problems in the financing of their operations but seem to have that behind them and have a large hoard of cash to work with. They will surprise us."

Hit the deck
I'll admit I was one of those who thought Deckers Outdoor's Ugg boots were a fashion fad whose 15 minutes of fame would fade once Sex in the City and the Oprah ovation passed. Faster than you could say "Crocs" (Nasdaq: CROX), I figured we' be picking them out of the bargain bin. Of course, one look at my wardrobe and you'd rightly ask what I know about fashion.

But that was a long time ago and considering the staying power of the oh-so-comfortable footwear, I'm no longer surprised that the sheepskin boot maker was able to generate 16% growth in its core brand's sales last quarter while international sales nearly doubled.

Highly rated CAPS All-Star member silentrumble rightly takes to task those analysts who had little faith in the company, and writes that Deckers could be growing the Ugg into a stand-alone, international brand in the same way Nike is more than just a basketball sneaker company.

Deckers has done a tremendous job of expanding the UGG brand into footware outside of the winter boots category and even into UGG accessories. (purses, etc.) At some point, UGG could become an international brand separate from the original sheep wool boots-similar to how NIKE is light years away from being limited to a high-top basketball shoe company.

A matinee cliffhanger
It's almost like trying to sweep back the tide with a broom. While Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) toys with the idea of bankruptcy, movie rental kiosk partner NCR says it continues to sign up new locations for the units. With only around 4,000 sites so far, they've got a long way to go before they come close to the 22,400 locations industry leader Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR) has placed its Redboxes at.

CAPS member Bildozer thinks the company is doing a terrible disservice to its proud heritage by taking on losing partners.

This company has been going down from the beggining of Bill Nuti. I still have stock in this company in the chance that another will come alone and buy them out. They seem to take on service for companies on the way out, Blockbuster, Redbox, Glasshouse, and in the past Calcomp. NCR is only a 15 year old company after being spun off by AT&T, the name is 125 years old not the NEW NCR.

Foolish final thoughts
Stock investing is not brain surgery. Finding good, undervalued companies is not as difficult as the professionals want you to think. You just have to commit to starting now, and do so regularly. Now's the time to begin!

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.