Despite a year of turbulent markets, investors are guardedly optimistic about their financial future.

That's the conclusion reached in a recent study sponsored by American Skandia Life Assurance Co., a Shelton, Conn.-based underwriter of variable annuities.

More than two-thirds of the respondents said they were better off economically than a year ago, the study found.

"And while not wildly optimistic, there is an overall positive sentiment among investors that the economy, business conditions, and the securities markets will improve next year," said Robert B. Seaberg, national marketing director for American Skandia.

If given another $10,000 to invest this year, 38% of the respondents said they would put it in mutual funds. Most said they would prefer to invest in stock or bond funds, and about 80% of respondents said they preferred tax-deferred investments.

The study, done by National Family Opinion, Greenwich, Conn., contacted more than 1,000 consumers by telephone.

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