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:

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 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

Analyst 5-Year EPS Growth Est.

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Sinovac Biotech (NYSE:SVA)

$362 million





ReneSola (NYSE:SOL)

$555 million





Quantum (NYSE:QTM)

$332 million






$362 million





Riverbed Technology (NASDAQ:RVBD)

$1.5 billion





Sources:, Yahoo! Finance, and Zacks.

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.

A dull blade
Maybe it's not worth an episode of Nip/Tuck, but ReneSola continues to alter its appearance, transforming into a vertically integrated solar power specialist with a presence in wafer, cell, and module manufacturing.

Expanding its business through its recent acquisition of Jiawei may help the company minimize the soft pricing issues affecting the industry, but at least one analyst suggests there remains a significant oversupply of polysilicon, solar wafers, and PV cells and modules that's likely to last into 2011.

ReneSola looks intent on adding to the problem. It expects 2009 production of polysilicon to be in the range of 400 to 500 metric tonnes from a plant it just brought online in July, and forecasts that output to grow to as much as 2,800 to 2,900 metric tonnes next year.

ReneSola's not alone in churning out ever-greater amounts of product, either. LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK) also remains committed to boosting production.

CAPS member MizzouFanVan says ReneSola is a long-term solar investment anyway, smaller and nimbler than competitors like Suntech Power (NYSE:STP):

This is my long-term play on solar energy. Let's see. China green technology = huge LT growth potential. [ReneSola] is becoming more of a vertically intergrated photovoltaic maker instead of selling their wafers to other companies. And since it is much smaller than SunTech, it allows for greater growth over time. Plus the cost base could end up being under $1/watt - which would be cheaper than SunTech.

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!

iRobot and Suntech Power Holdings are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations.

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.