People who buy variable annuities generally want their investments to grow - but they are not as aggressive as mutual fund investors, a study shows.

The study, by CDA/Wiesenberger of Rockville, Md., found that of $81.9 billion invested in variable annuities, 68% are tied to growth funds.

Annuities are tax-deferred insurance contracts that invest in mutual funds and other securities to generate a steady stream of income, typically for retirement.

Growth is also the most important objective for people who put their money into regular nonmunicipal funds. According to the mutual fund tracking firm, 48% of the $933 billion in total assets invested in funds are in growth funds.

But while both groups favor these funds, annuity investors are more cautious. Just 6% of annuity assets are in aggressive growth funds, versus 11% of regular mutual fund assets.

Corporate bonds, the No. 2 investment choice for annuity purchasers, represent 13% of assets for both groups.

International products claim just a sliver of the pie. Just 5% of annuity assets and 6% of regular fund assets IFC invested in foreign stocks. Foreign bond product for both mutual fund investors (3%) and annuity investors (1%).

Why are variable annuity investors more moderate? One reason, according to the study, is simply that the selection of riskier annuity products is limited.

Bankers who want to sell insurance are waiting with bated breath to see if lawmakers in their states will let them have their way. Although Florida's insurance commissioner recently thwarted an attempt by Barnett Banks, more states are expected to give banks the go-ahead to sell insurance products.

Banks are barred from selling insurance in about 17 states, according to Kenneth Kehrer, president of Kenneth Kehrer & Associates, a Princeton, N.J., firm that tracks annuity sales.

Nevada recently passed a law permitting banks to sell annuities, and decisions are pending in New York and Michigan.

Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, and Connecticut are among a few states with statutes prohibiting affiliations between banks and insurance agents. There it will be "very hard" for banks to break into the business, said Ellen Lamb, spokeswoman for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

But many states have so-called "wild statutes" that grant parity with national banks. "There are some states that are never going to allow banks to sell insurance," Ms. Lamb said. "But I don't expect the pendulum to swing the other way."

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