The Great Recession has caused people to act less like the fabled grasshopper and more like the ant-thrifty rather than profligate, cautious rather than compulsive-and their newer, more virtuous habits have been reconfirmed by a poll of independent financial advisors conducted by Charles Schwab.

After polling more than 1,100 independent investment advisors with about $252 billion near the end of January, Schwab found that 32% cited more frugal spending habits as the most abiding behavior changes among their clients since the market turmoil began some 18 months ago. Twenty-six percent, meanwhile, said that the most enduring change in client behavior was that they were saving more. Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they expect consumer savings to increase in the next six months.

"Maybe as important is that 55% of advisors in this survey want to see their clients save upwards of 9% of their income. That's double what we're seeing now," said Bernie Clark, senior vice president and head of Charles Schwab Advisor Services, who spoke during a panel discussion in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday to announce the findings in Schwab's semi-annual Independent Advisor Outlook Study. "It's going to be interesting to see what influence this has on investment strategies and our economy going forward should it be sustainable, which has always been the million dollar question."

Some 62% of advisors in the poll also said that clients have been focused on paying down debt, while 44% are focused on supporting their children.

The changing economic weather has not got everybody so optimistic, however. About 46% of the advisors polled expect the housing market to continue softening in the next six months, an increase from the 35% who said the same thing in July 2009. And 59% thought consumer savings would increase in the next six months, whereas 69% said the same thing in July. Some 57% of advisors still say it will be difficult for clients to reach their investment goals, though that number has fallen from 84% in January of 2009.

But only 40% of advisors predict that unemployment will increase in the next six months, a dramatic decline from the 81% who thought it would rise in July.

Clark also said that even though more hand-holding was needed during the downturn, clients need less reassurance than they did in January 2009, with 31% of clients needing reassurance during the last six months of 2009 as opposed to 49% of clients who needed it in January of that year.

The Schwab study also found that advisors plan to increase large-cap stock investments, with some 33% planning to invest more in international emerging markets large cap, while 28% plan to invest more in developed international large-company stocks and 26% in U.S. large cap. Meanwhile, advisors are pulling back from small caps and fixed income, says the study. Whereas 31% of the advisors in the survey planned to invest more in U.S. small cap in July 2009, only 16% planned to invest more in January 2010. Fixed income, at the same time, fell from 25% to 16%. Thirty-six percent plan to invest more in ETFs in the next six months.

The study also confirmed the breakaway broker trend. The poll found that 92% of respondents have new assets, and of those 46% came from full-service brokerage firms, 30% came from other firms and financial professionals and 24% came from do-it-yourself investors.

-Eric Rasmussen