Evidently, the equity bull market that began after the March 2009 lows hasn't assuaged the fears of many investors.

In a recent survey of 613 people with at least $100,000 in investable assets, 89% said they were very concerned about another serious drop in the stock market and 54% said they will never feel comfortable investing in the stock market again. The poll was conducted for the money management firm MFS Investment Management through Research Collaborative, an independent research company.

Doubt and pessimism courses through the survey. For example, 73% of respondents said they've lowered their expectations for their retirement years, and 71% are pessimistic about the U.S. economy five years out.

Given the prevailing mood, it's not surprising that investors are feeling more conservative with their money. Specifically, the survey found 62% of respondents prefer low-risk investments even if it means low returns, and 61% consider themselves more of a saver than an investor.

At the same time, another message seems to come through: namely, folks need some help with their finances. Forty nine percent of survey respondents said they're overwhelmed by all the different investment choices out there, and 48% said their need for financial advice has increased since the downturn.

"Education might be what is needed the most to help build the confidence of investors," said Bill Finnegan, director of Global Retail Marketing for MFS. "We're closing out a decade book-ended by the dot-com bubble burst and the worst recession since the Great Depression-perhaps re-engaging with clients about investing basics would be a good place for advisors and their clients to start, to help to make the novice less nervous."

In another survey finding, 20% of all respondents said they would prefer e-mail on a weekly basis from their advisor during periods of market volatility. That's more than double other contact modes, including phone, in person or mail. They're comfortable with less frequent contacts by phone (monthly or quarterly) or in person (quarterly or annually).