In my opinion, this is an excellent time to be a brand-spanking-new investor. I'm a contrarian by nature -- just ask my wife -- and scouring the market for its "coldest" prospects (as opposed to its hottest) is a favorite pastime of mine. At present, it appears that investors seeking the kinds of stocks that can form the foundation of a portfolio -- long-haul overachievers trading on the cheap -- are in luck.

For example, take energy concerns such as Chevron (NYSE:CVX), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and BP (NYSE:BP). Each of these big boys has bested the S&P 500 for the 10 years that ended with August, but thanks to the market's mysterious ways, all of 'em clock in with trailing price-to-earnings ratios (P/Es) below that of the broader market. Indeed, owing in large part to the price volatility of oil, each of those companies runs with a single-digit P/E, despite their track records of delivering superior returns for investors.

That's also true of Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and while fellow market-beaters 3M (NYSE:MMM), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and AT&T (NYSE:T) aren't quite that cheap on a P/E basis, each does clock in with a below-market ratio.

What's the catch?
Make no mistake: Sometimes, even rock-solid companies trade for lengthy stretches of time with moribund multiples. None of the above is a get-rich-quick prospect. "Get rich slowly" is more like it. But if you're a newbie investor, that should be your mantra anyway. Time, after all, is on your side.

Let's say you're a disciplined 30-year-old intent on retiring at 62, and you manage to sock away $10,000 per year. Depending on the lifestyle you want to lead in your retirement, you might be able to hit the proverbial back nine even sooner. If your portfolio just grows at the market's annualized historical average of roughly 10.5%, you'll be a millionaire at 55. Keep kicking in the coin until you hit 60, and at that same rate of return, you'll have more than $1.8 million.

What if you're not so disciplined?
If you don't have 30 years (or quite that much discipline), financial independence can still be within reach. To achieve it, you'll want to beat the market's average, of course. On that front, consider adding the aforementioned list of "cold" stocks to your further-research list. When you can buy that kind of quality on the cheap, there's little reason to go fishing in more speculative waters for market-beating potential.

And if you're looking for solidly profitable companies that haven't yet achieved the household-name status of those called out above -- and whose forward-looking prospects appear even brighter to us -- consider taking the Fool's Ready-Made Millionaire service for a spin. At RMM, we've designed a set-and-forget portfolio of stocks, funds, and a high-octane ETF that we think has what it takes to trounce the market over the next three to five years and beyond. And we stand behind our lineup, too: The Fool has a million bucks of its own money plunked down on the portfolio.

RMM will re-open to new members next month. In the meantime, you can learn more about the service -- and snag a free copy of our 11-Minute Millionaire special report -- just by clicking here.

This article was originally published on Jan. 18, 2007. It has been updated.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Ready-Made Millionaire service. Shannon doesn't own any of the securities mentioned. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.