(Dow Jones) Mutual fund investors' overall willingness to take investment risk has not rebounded since the financial crisis, according to an Investment Company Institute annual survey of U.S. households.

According to ICI, an association of investment companies, 30% of mutual fund investors were willing to take "substantial or above-average risk" for financial gain in May 2010, unchanged from the prior year but down from 37% two years ago.

ICI senior director Sarah Holden said the decline in risk tolerance was "widespread across working-age mutual fund investors." She added older investors "continued to report a much lower tolerance for risk when compared with younger investors."

"These patterns in risk tolerance appear to affect mutual fund investing," added Chief Economist Brian Reid. "In recent years, relatively strong bond fund flows and weaker-than-expected equity fund flows in part reflect investors' reduced tolerance for risk and the aging of the U.S. population."

In much of the past two years, ICI's weekly reading of mutual fund flows has shown money steadily going into bond funds while leaving money-market funds by the hundreds of billions of dollars, and a lack of consistency amid equities despite last year's sharp rebound in stock values.

ICI also reported that in 2010, more than 51 million U.S. households representing more than 90 million individual investors owned mutual funds. While those are the most commonly held type of fund, 3.3 million households reported owning exchange-traded funds and 2.1 million households reported holding closed-end funds, according to this year's survey.

According to John Sabelhaus, ICI senior economist, nearly all mutual-fund owning households reported being focused on retirement savings, and three-quarters of them reported that as their primary financial goal.

ICI's results are based on a sample of 4,200 U.S. households selected by random digit dialing, of which 1,844 households, or 44%, owned mutual funds.

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