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 a trust fund as big as Trouble's to start securing your financial future. Just follow these four simple steps:

  • Start today!
  • Invest regularly. Every month, put away $250, $100, even $50.
  • Look to the stock market for your best hope of realizing your dreams.
  • Seek undervalued small-cap stocks for your greatest returns.

Why small caps?
Small caps 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 today for stocks with:

  • Market values less than $2.5 billion, to qualify as a small caps.
  • Share prices above $5, to weed out penny stocks.
  • An earnings surprise of 20% or more last quarter.
  • The prospect of growing earnings at least 20% annually for the next five years, according to analysts.

We'll filter our findings through the collective investing wisdom of the more than 83,000 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.

Here are some of the stocks this simple screen found:

Company

Market Cap

Share Price

Earnings Surprise

5-Year Growth Est.

CAPS Rating (5 max)

Affymetrix (Nasdaq: AFFX)

$1.25 billion

$18.22

25%

25%

***

Analogic (Nasdaq: ALOG)

$772 million

$57.82

20%

20%

**

athenahealth

$911 million

$28.17

500%

33%

***

Bruker BioSciences (Nasdaq: BRKR)

$1.10 billion

$10.46

20%

28%

****

Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (NYSE: ASR)

$1.59 billion

$53.00

55%

23%

*****

NTELOS Holdings

$790 million

$18.79

29%

20%

***

Starent (Nasdaq: STAR)

$958 million

$14.34

100%

40%

**

Screen results courtesy of MSN MoneyCentral; data courtesy of Yahoo! Finance; CAPS ratings courtesy 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 if analysts' faith in them is well-founded, but we've got the CAPS community helping us here, and starting with its favorites is a good idea.

As a group, the airports of Mexico have proved to be profitable investments as the country has increasingly become a destination location. With a weak dollar, travel to Europe becomes expensive, but not so much south of the border. Motley Fool Hidden Gems found Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (NYSE: PAC) to be a winner, as did Motley Fool Global Gains when it selected Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (Nasdaq: OMAB).

Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR) may be one to add the list. By focusing on the tourist areas of Mexico, like Cancun and Cozumel, ASUR has been able to convert passengers to pesos and has seen its stock rise 13.4% over the past year. Yet it also holds the potential for a decline if a recession here grips travelers' wallets tighter and the Mexican economy slows in sympathy.

CAPS investor Chemistryguy found the upside potential to outweigh the risks last Christmas, because of the tourist nature of the areas it serves. All-Star jester112358, with a 99.49 rating, agrees, writing that with political risk relatively low in Mexico, it is a prime spot to travel.

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 don't agree. 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. Join CAPS to get a helpful boost. Let's get started. There's no time to lose!

Affymetrix is a recommendation of Rule Breakers. You can break the rules, too, by getting 30 days of free stock picks simply by clicking here. athenahealth is a choice in Hidden Gems. Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico is a Hidden Gems pick. Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte is a selection of Global Gains.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.