Advisors seem more optimistic about the economy than their own clients.

That’s according to a Charles Schwab survey of 1,200 RIAs who manage a combined $234 billion in client assets. In fact, 50 percent of those advisors said their clients are less optimistic now than they were a year ago about retiring on time. And 40 percent say their clients are less optimistic about their investments today than a year ago.

Their advisors, who manage $265 million in assets on average, are more upbeat. In fact, 63 percent of the respondents believe the S&P 500 will rise in the next six months and 59 percent of them do not expect a double-dip recession during the same period. Bernie Clark, executive vice president and head of Schwab Advisor Services, says advisors are more positive now because certain market conditions have eased. In other words, advisors know it could be worse.

It also helps that a whopping 92 percent of the RIA advisors surveyed received net new assets in the last six months. Of those new assets, 41 percent came from full service brokerage firms.

“That doesn’t mean advisors feel their jobs are any easier today,” Clark says. “They realize it’s still difficult to meet every goal, but they just don’t feel there is as much gloom in the industry today,” he adds. Indeed, 71 percent of advisors say it will be difficult to achieve their clients’ investment goals in the current economic environment. (Six percent said it will be easy.)

In the meantime though, advisors are doing less hand-holding for clients. Just 30 percent of advisors’ clients have needed to be reassured about meeting their investment goals. That’s the lowest percent since July 2008, and it indicates that clients have gone through an intense financial education over the last two years, Clark says. They have a much better understanding of where the financial crisis has left them

What about client pessimism about retiring on time? Clark says just because clients are less optimistic about retiring on time doesn’t mean they are panicking about it. “It comes back to client education. Clients realize if the markets stay like this then they probably won’t retire as they had planned,” he says. Perhaps that explains why clients are being more frugal. Advisors say that 47 percent of clients are reducing expenses, and more than half are spending less on discretionary items.

Fewer Clients Say They Need Reassurance About Reaching Investing Goals:

Jan 2007 16%

July 2007 12%

Jan 2008 18%

July 2008 23%

Jan 2009 49%

July 2009 43%

Jan 2010 31%

July 2010 30%

Source: Charles Schwab