U.S. workers may find that variable annuities with guarantees are good vehicles for fine-tuning exposure to investment risk right before and after they retire.

Executives from the annuities arm of Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J., talked here at a press conference about workers’ need for help with balancing the need for performance during the years around retirement with the need for safety.

The executives presented the results of a recent survey that included 1,038 U.S. members of employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement plans.

The survey focused on workers’ attitudes about what Prudential is calling the “Retirement Red Zone,” or the period 5 years before and 5 years after retirement, when low inflation-adjusted returns or run-of-the-mill market losses can have a big effect on total retirement plan portfolio balances.

Although 61% of the survey participants said they were aware of investment products that could guarantee income for a spouse after a retiree’s death, only 54% knew about products that could guarantee lifetime income or a minimum annual return, and only 37% knew about products that could protect investors’ principal.

But 76% of the survey participants agreed that they wondered if products existed that could help investors protect against or manage losses, and at least 65% of the participants said they were very or somewhat interested in various types of investment guarantees.

“About half said they would consider an annuity when informed about the types of guarantees an annuity could provide,” according to the authors of the survey report.

Prudential executives suggested that owning variable annuities with guarantees could reduce workers’ tendency to invest too conservatively.

About 72% of the survey participants said they invest for a longer-term horizon if an investment product guaranteed principal or guaranteed a minimum annual return, and 74% said they would be more likely to stay in the stock market even if they experienced short-term market losses, executives said.