Despite the challenges they see coming at them, registered investment advisors are optimistic about their futures, according to the Schwab Advisor Services Independent Advisor Outlook Study released Thursday.

Seventy-three percent of the 930 advisors surveyed are very optimistic about opportunities for the growth of their firms in the next five years, the survey says, even though 66 percent see more competition for securing assets in this same time frame.

There is a primary need to differentiate their firms from the competition, they say. Thirty-six percent think the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule will increase that competition and prompt some of the differentiation to take place.

While optimistic for themselves, advisor confidence that the S&P 500 will continue its upward trajectory is at a four-year low, with only 56 percent seeing an increase in the next six months. Ninety percent of advisors say they have had to reassure at least some portion of their client base in the past six months that they will achieve their investment goals.

At the same time, 38 percent of advisors say they spend the majority of their time considering how to prepare for future growth of the firm.

The survey shows advisors expect a younger and more diverse client base in the future. Thirty-seven are factoring changing demographics into their succession planning with 35 percent aiming to attract and serve younger clients;  29 percent expect to serve more female clients, and 10 percent plan to serve more ethnically diverse clients.