BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- What's in a name? When it comes to annuities, plenty.

"Even after describing an annuitylike solution as their ideal financial vehicle," more than half of Americans age 44-75 -- meaning 54% -- expressed distaste for the word "annuity," according to recent research promoted by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America.

Allianz -- as a provider of fixed index annuities -- has a vested interest in changing this perception, and its description of such products certainly puts them in the best possible light. Eighty percent of the more than 3,200 people surveyed agreed they would prefer "a product with 4% return and a guarantee against losing value over a product with 8% return and subject to market risk."

When asked to choose between putting money into an annuitylike solution (moderate growth opportunity, monthly income, but limited access to the lump sum) versus a similar instrument that provides total access but risks running out of money, 56% chose the former. Among the mass affluent (with investable assets of between $300,000 to $500,000), the share rose to 77%.

With respect to liquidity and access to funds -- a common criticism of annuities -- a majority of respondents said they would chose a product with 7% return and very limited access to funds over one that pays 5% but is totally accessible.

The findings demonstrate that "more education is needed about annuities" to change perceptions, Gary C. Bhojwani, president and CEO of Allianz Life, said in a statement.

"The 401(k) industry did a great job of teaching consumers about mutual funds to save for retirement," he says. "Now we need the same type of concerted education effort on annuities and how they can help Americans when they are in retirement."

Along with Allianz Life, top sellers of annuity products include Prudential Financial ( PRU), Metlife ( MET), TIAA-CREF, Jackson National Life, New York Life and AIG ( AIG).

Allianz makes the case that the apparent distaste for annuities comes from opinions formed decades ago. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they first formed their assessment of annuities at least 10 to 20 years ago, and 64% of those respondents said they haven't researched them since that time.

The pool of Allianz respondents who own annuities ranked them second-highest (50%) in satisfaction among all financial instruments, beating out mutual funds at 38%, stocks at 36%, U.S. savings bonds at 35% and CDs at 25%. Gold and precious metals ranked first, with a satisfaction rating of 62%.

--Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

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