You don't need the investing acumen of Warren Buffett or the riches of 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, 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 surprises of 15% or more last quarter, and are forecast to have long-term earnings growth potential of at least 15%. 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 Est.

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

A-Power Energy Generation Systems (Nasdaq: APWR)

$458 million

$10.10

$0.61 vs $0.41 est.

23%

****

China Gerui Advanced 
Materials Group (Nasdaq: CHOP)

$307 million

$7.55

$0.21 vs $0.19 est.

18%

*****

China Precision Steel
(Nasdaq: CPSL)

$102 million

$2.18

$0.06 vs $0.01 est.

16%

*****

Source: Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS.

Of course, this is not a list of stocks to buy -- just 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. Still, as long as we have the CAPS community helping us, starting with their favorites seems like a good place to begin.

An alternative opportunity
Powering down its 2010 outlook below the forecasts of the two analysts covering it, A-Power Energy Generation Systems defies the market's ability to properly analyze it. While the company warns that its backlog of $367 million might not fully represent future results, it gives at least a guidepost for what the Chinese wind power company is lining up.

The largest producer of wind turbines in China is Sinovel, which is partnering with American Superconductor (Nasdaq: AMSC) to build what is being called China's most powerful domestically built wind energy system. But A-Power can still feel the wind at its back; it partnered with General Electric (NYSE: GE) to begin building gearboxes for the conglomerate's turbine assembly plant. GE wants to double deliveries of wind turbines in China this year. 

CAPS member JaysRage says the market has focused only on the guidance. Any new positive developments will cause A-Power's price to soar:

Just about every positive development has already been priced out of the stock already. The current price reflects the market price before the Texas deal was announced. Institutional investors are in above $14 with warrents about $16. The only thing that could push this stock lower would be further dilution. While possible, the odds of positive news outweighs that at this price, and there is quite a bit of upside from here.

Going on the offensive
Both China Precision Steel and China Gerui Advanced Materials are specialty steelmakers in China, hoping to benefit from the country's stimulus spending while simultaneously sidestepping any pitfalls if the bubble there bursts.

Despite their hopes, they may run afoul of a potential trade war between China and the U.S. Following President Obama's decision to impose antidumping tariffs on steel pipe coming out of China, the country responded by slapping duties on steel used in the power industry. WSP Holdings (NYSE: WH) was previously slammed when tubular goods were subject to increased tariffs, when vitriol between the U.S. and China bubbled up last year. Now other American companies, including AK Steel (NYSE: AKS), will face higher duties, too.

China Precision Steel and China Gerui may initially benefit from the escalating situation, since they sell almost exclusively into Chinese markets. However, trade wars rarely stay within the confines of the targeted industry, and the economic impact may be more widespread.

Still, CAPS member odenpaul believes the insular Chinese market will protect China Gerui for the foreseeable future. Its growth prospects seem stellar, and its financial position looks solid:

This strong specialty materials stock has an incredibly low PE, combined with a staggering growth rate. While in the short term, Chinese stocks may suffer due to potential lending problems, companies like China Gerui shouldn't be very adversely affected, due in part to its low debt. Currently the stock is thinly traded, but the daily volume should grow.

Similarly, mpotisk says that with its targeted niche market, China Precision Steel remains at the beginning of a long growth cycle: 

This small steel producer will benefit hugely from growing Chinese middle class. Their cold rolled steel products are mainly used in auto and small appliances industries. This is a cycle that should continue for years.

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.