Most investors are now financially better off than they were in 2000, and about 22 percent of this majority cite real estate as the reason for their gains, according to a national investment survey conducted in March by Washington, D.C.-based research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates.

About 29 percent of surveyed investors said real estate will offer the best rate of return over the next three years, while about 38 percent said equities will offer the best rate of return over the next three years, according to the study.

About 52 percent of investors who reported that they are now worse off financially since 2000 said that they blame equity investments more than any other investment class.

The survey of 500 U.S. investors was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland on behalf of Eaton Vance Management Inc., a Boston-based investment management firm. Half of the respondents had incomes over $100,000 and half had incomes below $100,000. At least half of the respondents reported investments above $100,000.

About 61 percent of the respondents said they expect a slight increase in interest rates this year, while 22 percent expect a moderate increase and 13 percent do not expect a rise in interest rates. Also, about four in 10 investors said that a change in presidential administration would be bad for the stock market and the bond market.

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