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).
  • An 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:


Market Cap

Share Price

EPS Surprise

Median Analyst 5-Year EPS Est.

CAPS Rating (out of 5)


$173 million





Fuqi International (NASDAQ:FUQI)

$761 million






$115 million





SciClone Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SCLN)

$231 million





Suntech Power (NYSE:STP)

$2.3 billion





Sources: MSN MoneyCentral Deluxe Screener; Yahoo! Finance; 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 whether analysts' faith in them is well-founded. However, as long as we've got the CAPS community helping us here, starting with their favorites would be a good place to begin.

Clouds parting on solar?
Over the last two years, shares of Suntech Power -- and the solar industry as a whole -- have been slammed. Yet despite that poor performance, it looks like investors in the industry still believe in the promise of future widespread adoption of solar energy.

You'd think so, anyway, with solar stocks surging on the news that First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) signed a "memorandum of understanding" to build a 2,000-megawatt solar power plant in China. Its shares jumped more than 10% on the announcement, causing Suntech Power and JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) to follow with big moves of their own.

Yet First Solar's deal doesn't necessarily mean sunny skies have arrived. The bulk of the project won't be completed for nearly a decade, which underscores just how few details there are. For example, the project will function under a "feed-in tariff," which provides a fixed price -- likely at above-market prices -- for the electricity provided by the plant. Such a tariff is essential to the success of the project, yet there is no guarantee regarding how much that tariff will be.

More certain is Suntech's part in helping to power the world's first carbon-neutral city. Abu Dhabi plans to invest some $22 billion into Masdar City, a zero-waste municipality that should be completed by 2015. First Solar has also supplied thin-film solar modules to the project.

CAPS member jamespeer points to Suntech's "highly valuable contracts in the US and the Middle East" as the means for the company's continued growth.

The clouds may be thinning for the solar industry, but one memorandum of understanding and an exciting project in the Middle East don't mean we have seen the end of the storm.

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 disagree. 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 are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. 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.