A solid majority of Americans would save more money if the federal government provided them with tax incentives to do so, according to a Merrill Lynch survey.

The survey of 1,000 people age 18 and older indicated 78 percent would save more with tax incentives.In addition, the survey found 84 percent believe the government should make increasing personal saving a national priority and that 91 percent think it important they save more money.

"While the recession and the federal budget deficit have received much attention lately, the lack of personal saving has had decisively negative consequences on both the U.S. economy and individual Americans," said William A. Schreyer, chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch & Co.

To illustrate his point, Schreyer noted, "The financial assets of the average 50-year-old American are only $2,300."

"Even in the face of difficult economic conditions, Americans are prepared to increase their level of savings if the government provides them with the incentives," he said in a statement.

Given the option of a "back-end" or "front-end" savings incentive, 51 percent said they would choose a back-end incentive - described by Merrill Lynch as a special savings account that would allow after-tax income to be deposited in the account, to accumulate tax-free and to be withdrawn at retirement without imposition of taxes.

Of the respondents, 40 percent said they would choose a front-end incentive.

Asked if they would contribute to a back-end saving account, 82 percent said they would, even without an up-front incentive, Merrill Lynch said.