Many retirees could be losing out on building their savings because of excessive concern for liquidity, according to a new study by MetLife Inc.

MetLife found 37% of retirees keep most of their assets in “liquid” accounts such as certificates of deposit, savings accounts and money market funds, in order to have ready access to their assets.

At the same time, MetLife, New York, found that some retirees have benefitted from this liquidity bias. Only 49% of those with more than half of their funds in liquid accounts said they suffered market losses in recent months, compared to 65% with half or less of their assets in liquid accounts who experienced market losses because of the current financial and economic environment.

Nevertheless, MetLife cautions that retirees may pay a price for keeping so much of their money on the sidelines, especially if they have no present intention of withdrawing those assets.

In fact, 83% of more than 1,000 retirees surveyed said the interest income from their liquid holdings does not serve as a major source of funding for their basic needs. Moreover, 96% said “achieving consistent returns of 6% or more” was at least somewhat important as a financial goal for their assets.

“If they stay in these liquid assets, over time, many retirees are paying unnecessarily for a ‘liquidity benefit’ that they may never use,” commented Julia Lennox, vice president in the retirement and wealth management group at MetLife.

The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive, also found 59% of retirees have seen retirement assets shrink as a result of the current economic environment, and 44% don’t expect that the return on their retirement funds will keep pace with inflation on the essentials.

Yet only 42% said they are considering reallocating their assets to products that may provide a higher rate of return. Of those considering reallocation, 47% said they are not sure how they will do this. Only 17% of those who have experienced losses would rebalance their portfolio to get more of a return.

Of those who are considering reallocating assets, one-fifth are exploring guaranteed income products such as fixed income annuities, 17% are moving or planning to move more assets to bank CDs or money market funds and 14% plan to move more assets to fixed-income strategies.

When asked if the would be willing to give up access to funds currently in an interest-earning account if they could earn a significantly higher guaranteed return, just 12% said yes, while almost two-thirds were undecided.

“The goal for retirees right now is to achieve an optimal mix of investments, liquidity and protection products,” Lennox observed. “For most retirees, this means giving up some-but not all-of that liquidity in favor of products such as income annuities that may provide more income with guarantees.”