When you get a gift that doesn't work -- or that you simply don't like -- you can usually return it for a full refund. While it helps to have a gift receipt or some other record of the purchase, many stores will give you cash or store credit, no questions asked.

If only the stock market worked that way.

Feeling ripped off
I've run into many new investors who feel completely frustrated by their investing experience. Many of them overcame their fear and lack of experience to buy stocks for the first time in their lives, and they felt good about having taken their first steps toward financial independence. Yet the bear market has slapped them in the face, and they're now wondering if they were naive to think that they could beat what they see as a rigged system, thanks to the Wall Street bailout.

The way I see it, if your portfolio is worth a lot less than what you've put into it over the years, you've got a couple of choices. You could hire an ambitious attorney and sue every bank and brokerage house in the country for an amount equal to the entire gross domestic product of the United States by claiming a class action status on behalf of all American taxpayers that alleges the complete and utter destruction of the entire economy.

As long as you find the right jury -- which shouldn't be too hard, given how popular bankers and brokers are right now -- you could walk away the world's first trillionaire. (Good luck collecting.)

Done dreaming? Let's move on to choice No. 2.

Get aggressive
If you're just getting started investing, you hopefully have a long while before you actually need money from your portfolio. Barring unforeseen catastrophes like an extended period of unemployment or major medical expenses, people in their 30s and 40s can expect to see parts of their money stay invested for 30 to 50 years -- or even longer, if they’re lucky enough to live longer than the actuaries expect.

What that means is that you're free to take some risks with your money that others closer to retirement can't safely get away with. And while the losses you've already seen don't guarantee that you won't lose even more money from a bad investment, the fallen market has served up some pretty appealing bargains even among high-growth stocks that usually trade at much higher valuations.

Go for growth
For instance, take a look at some of these potential growers:

Stock

5-Year Past Earnings Growth Rate

5-Year Future Earnings Growth Rate

1-Year Return

Monsanto (NYSE:MON)

64.1%

15.0%

(32.1%)

Dolby Labs (NYSE:DLB)

42.2%

13.8%

(45.9%)

GigaMedia (NASDAQ:GIGM)

114.3%

19.3%

(64.6%)

Mindray Medical (NYSE:MR)

44.4% *

33.6%

(40.7%)

Quality Systems (NASDAQ:QSII)

34.9%

18.4%

21.6%

Sigma Designs (NASDAQ:SIGM)

143.5%

14.5%

(79.8%)

Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods (NYSE:WBD)

103.2%

16.4%

(79.6%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.
* 3-year growth rate.

These aren't definitive recommendations by any means, but they represent a fair sample of how growth stocks have performed lately and should give you a good perspective on the wider realm of stocks available.

Clearly, growth estimates have gotten ratcheted downward during the recession, as analysts rein in their enthusiasm in a bad economic environment. Yet as these companies grow, even growth rates in the mid-teens could produce phenomenal share appreciation, especially if the current pessimism gives way to more rational thinking about the future. And many of these stocks have gotten beaten down to the point at which they resemble value plays as much as growth opportunities.

High risk, high reward
Of course, being aggressive means taking on risk. At a time when you already feel like you've gotten burned, that's probably the last thing you want to do.

But now isn't the time to give up on your investing. If you act now to adjust course, you can get back on track to reach your long-term financial goals. And you don't need to hire a team of lawyers to get you there.

For more on growth investing, read about:

To learn more about the aggressive young companies that can get your portfolio moving again, tune in to our Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter. We focus on big movers in growing industries that will pave the way to the future, both for the business world and for shareholders. See what prospects we're finding today with a 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has never been a big risk taker, although he's sometimes regretted it. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. GigaMedia is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Sigma Designs, Mindray Medical, and GigaMedia are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Quality Systems and Dolby Laboratories are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Mindray Medical. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy doesn't charge you in the first place, so you never need a refund.