Just flip on the T.V., and there's a good chance you'll soon find yourself watching an entertaining, get-rich-quick stock scheme being advertised. But no matter how you slice it, dice it, or trade it, your long-run returns will truly be dictated by your portfolio's ability to generate one thing -- cash.

A Fool's guide to free cash
Investing, after all, is about putting money up front today to get more of it in return tomorrow. Here at the Fool, we're firm believers that free cash flow, as opposed to traditional accounting earnings, is the best gauge of a firm's profitability (or lack thereof). You can learn more about the importance of free cash flow here.

So with those cash flow lessons deeply ingrained in your Foolish subconscious -- or maybe just bookmarked as a "favorites" page -- I'll highlight three cash-cow favorites of our Motley Fool CAPS community.

I'll simply screen for companies with free cash flow-to-sales margins greater 10% (also known as the Cash King Margin) that also enjoy overwhelmingly bullish support from our community. The Cash King Margin is a good way to account for size differences among companies, rather than just using an absolute level of free cash flow.

Cash rules everything around them
Unlike companies such as JDS Uniphase (NASDAQ:JDSU), Vonage (NYSE:VG), VeraSun Energy (NYSE:VSE), and even Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL), which struggle to keep the cash from gushing out their corporate windows, these companies have it practically flooding their mailrooms.

So let's not waste another second. Sound the trumpets! Here's yet another trio of Cash Kings from CAPS:


Cash King Margin (TTM)



Cherokee (NASDAQ:CHKE)




China Mobile (NYSE:CHL)




Hurray! Holding (NASDAQ:HRAY)




As always, don't consider these stocks as formal picks but rather as suggestions worth further investigation.

Aside from free cash flow, there's obviously a ton of other things investors need to take into consideration about a prospective investment, from the character of its management to the valuation of its shares. After all, due diligence is the Fool's way to riches.

But just for starters, here's a quick summary of the stories behind these cash-throwing stocks, and what some of our CAPS members are saying.

No reservations about Cherokee
With a whopping free cash flow-to-sales margin of more than 40%, Cherokee takes the honors as this week's most prolific cash king. The company, which markets and licenses brands such as Cherokee, Chorus Line, and Saint Tropez West, offers a sporty 7% dividend while carrying a rock-solid balance sheet with no long-term debt.

As fellow Fool Ryan Fuhrmann mentions, Cherokee's business model is marked by minimal capital expenditures, allowing the company to generate tremendous free cash flow -- all of which is returned to shareholders.

CAPS All-Star Steve819 is not wild about how much the chief gets paid, but admits that the company does a great job taking care of the investment tribe nonetheless:

"Will continue to outperform or get bought out by management or another company. I don't like management compensation, but they do a great job at generating shareholder value, so I won't complain too much."

China on the move
China Mobile, provider of mobile services to Mainland China, has performed majestically over the past year, up over 80% from its 52-week lows. The Hong Kong-based company was recently chosen by BusinessWeek magazine as the top brand name in China, with an estimated brand value of $35.51 billion.

Thanks to the strength of the name, China's growing economy, and huge telecom demand, the company reported a 21% growth in revenue for Q3. One CAPS player Tradertrack thinks those results are just the top of the iceberg:

"With such a growing market in China, this company is bound to continue growing into more rural areas and develop communication networks for the mass population in china. With so many people in china, there is surely plenty of room for this company to continue growth and provide great options."

Hooray for Hurray! Our last free cash flow king this week is Hurray! Holding, a leader in the distribution of wireless music. Despite the cheesy name, the Beijing-based company has delivered impressive revenue and free cash flow growth on the back of its wireless mobile networks. Most recently, Hurray! was named by Deloitte as one of the fastest-growing technology companies in China for the second straight year.

CAPS All-Star WetCoast isn't overly excited about this king's cash hoard, but certainly respects how he addresses the people:

"Normally I'd be wary of a huge pile of cash, but I like the fact that HRAY management has not felt the need to splurge immediately after cashing the IPO underwriting check. Other than that, HRAY has high insider ownership, and its annual report was a work of beauty -- clear, concise, honest and upfront about their business strategy, drivers and risks."

The Foolish bottom line
Free cash flow-generating companies like Cherokee, China Mobile, and Hurray! are always among my top candidates for further research. Our Motley Fool CAPS intelligence database is a great place to look for your own Cash Kings, read what fellow Fools think, and even voice your opinion about your favorite stocks. Click here to join the forward-thinking CAPS community free of charge.

That's all for this week, Fools! Be sure to join us next week, when I'll feature three more cash kings from CAPS. Until then, may the free cash-flowing force be with you.

Foolish contributor Brian Pacampara is accepting free cash donations but holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is always the King's law.