The economic downturn has inspired many Americans to take charge of their finances, according to a new survey.

The MetLife survey found that, in response to the crisis, many people are trying to save more, cut down on spending and take a more conservative approach in their investing.

The survey, titled "Lessons Learned," consisted of interviews with a national sample of 2,191 adults aged 18 or older, between September 23 and September 25.

The survey found that 20% of Americans have increased retirement savings compared to two years earlier and 20% say they are more disciplined and conservative when it comes to saving and investing for retirement.

A majority, 68%, says it considers asset protection more important than capital gains and are looking for more traditional ways to invest.

The survey also revealed an effort to curtail spending and bringing down debt. Sixty-five percent of respondents say they've managed to reduce credit card debt since the start of the recession. Fifty-seven percent say they've built a cash cushion into their budget and 65% say they have reduced spending on non-essential purchases.

"Americans are entering a new period of preparedness," says Robert E. Sollmann, senior vice president of MetLife retirement products. "Just like patients who survive a near-fatal illness, today's consumers are opting for a strong dose of preventive medicine."