Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, 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:

  • 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 for stocks with:

  • Market values of less than $3 billion, to qualify as a small cap (but no penny stocks).
  • 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:

Company

Market Cap

Share Price

EPS Surprise

Median Analyst 5-Year EPS Estimate

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

TASER (NASDAQ:TASR)

$296 million

$4.78

75%

30%

****

STEC (NASDAQ:STEC)

$1.9 billion

$39.34

24%

57%

**

Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK)

$292 million

$12.77

108%

20%

*

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ:GMCR)

$2.3 billion

$59.71

29%

33%

*

ClickSoftware Technologies (NASDAQ:CKSW)

$200 million

$6.90

43%

22%

*****

Sources: MSN Money Central Deluxe Screener; Yahoo! Finance.

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 whether analysts' faith in them is well-founded, but we have the CAPS community helping us here, and starting with their favorites would be a good place to begin.

It's beginning to click
Simply put, ClickSoftware Technologies makes your business more efficient. Although it couches its mission in flowery language, ClickSoftware helps business stay on schedule and more importantly on -- or under -- budget. Its products help  clients schedule, monitor, and manage their service operations, with the goal of increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

ClickSoftware counts SAP (NYSE:SAP) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) among its global partners. Helping stretched customers cut corners is the reason CAPS member 6ragans thinks this company is a good long-term bet.

This is a very strong stock. The fact that its product helps to save other companies money makes it a good choice in these times of a weak economy. What service company wouldn't want to save $$$right now!

Shock to the system
Maybe stun-gun maker TASER used one of its own devices to stimulate sales in the latest quarter, as losses narrowed to just a penny a share, better than the $0.04 loss analysts were expecting. The top line got a charge as well, with revenues rising 4% from the year-ago period. As it expands its product line to include guns that can shock three individuals without having to be reloaded, as well as shotguns equipped with the device, it should find a more accepting market in the law-enforcement community.

CAPS member HDTVBG believes future research and development will boost TASER because the company offers a cost-effective alternative for municipalities: "Politically incorrect but effective non-lethal weaponry has proven effective and reduces unlawful death payouts in court."

Foolish final thoughts
Academics will tell you that individual investors have little chance of beating the stock market. They say the likes of Warren Buffett, Shelby Davis, and Peter Lynch 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!

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.