The migration from the brokerage model to the independent model among clients is such that planners have tied full-service brokers as the place where the mass affluent park their money.

A survey released Thursday by Spectrem Group, "Mass Affluent Investor 2009," found that the percentage of mass affluent households in the U.S. that use full-service brokers as their go-to financial advisor dropped to 22% this year versus 30% last year.

Meanwhile, this group's choice of independent financial planners as their main financial advisor rose to 22% this year from 20% last year.

With that tie, brokers fell from their sole perch as the advisor of choice for the first time since the survey has been conducted by Spectrem, a Chicago-based consulting company.

Elsewhere in the survey, 41% of mass affluent investors described themselves as conservative when it comes to investment risk, compared to 22% the prior year.  Those considering themselves aggressive fell to 11% in 2009 from 29% a year ago.

"Whether linked to perceptions of financial institutions or a need to reassess their investing, this shift coincides with a strong move toward conservative investing by the mass affluent," said George H. Walper, Jr., president of Spectrem Group.

The survey defines mass affluent households as those with a net worth of $100,000 to $1 million, excluding primary residence. Spectrem polled nearly 1,500 mass affluent households in July.