The mass affluent, those with $50,000 to $250,000 in investable assets, are feeling better about their financial situation, but not because they see the economy improving. Instead, they feel they are getting a better handle on spending and saving for an economy that will continue its roller coaster ride, according to a survey by Merrill Edge.

The survey of 1,000 mass affluent people explored people's attitudes towards their economic situation and their views of the future. Merrill Edge makes products available for this market through subsidiaries of Bank of America.

For financial advisors, the mass affluent are an underserved market made up of people who want to talk to a trusted financial advisor to help them navigate things like retirement and college savings, said Dean Athanasia, preferred and small business segment executive for Bank of America.

The rising cost of health care and the ability to meet financial goals continue to be the top concerns of this group and, in fact, have been a growing worry since January. Health care worries rose from 76% of those surveyed in January to 83% in November and meeting financial goals rose from 60% to 74%. Some 57% also feel saving will be harder five years from now, but that is down from 63% who felt that way in January.

At the same time, 52% feel their financial situation is the same as it was a year ago and nearly one quarter feel it is better.

Athanasia said this is because people say they are focusing on budgeting (67%) and balancing short- and long-term needs better (55%) and that these items are priorities for the next six months.

Coping with the reality of the economy also has made people more conservative about their investments, with 43% saying they are more conservative now than they were a year ago. They are looking to cash and fixed income for savings and investments.

The number one regret for the mass affluent is not contributing enough to their 401(k) (17%) and the one thing they want to pass on to their children are the economic lessons the have learned in the last few years, even more than advice on how to pick a good spouse, Athanasia said.

"Financial advisors do not reach deep enough into this market," he added. "It is an underserved market where 63% want or get advice from a financial advisor, followed by family and friends at 55%."

This same group shows its insecurity, with 35% saying they are not wealthy and 25% feeling they never will be. This is in a group where wealth means security and the freedom to do as they want, according to the survey.

-Karen DeMasters