Saving was child's play for insurance executive Lance Tay, who was so keen to build his wealth that he started putting the pennies away in primary school.

Mr Tay, 53, chief executive of Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore, said he was born with a saver's instincts, so much so that he thinks twice before splurging - except when it comes to chocolate.

"You'll never catch me buying anything on impulse. The only time I'll buy on impulse is if I go to 7-Eleven and see a Kit Kat, because I love Kit Kats," he said with a laugh, adding that he also likes Smarties and plain Van Houten chocolates.

But his career in the insurance industry has taught him about chancing his arm despite his cautious nature.

"Taking risks can be a learned behaviour... and being in the financial service, you have to learn these things," he said.

His prudent nature seems to have been inherited by his 17-year-old son Sean, who is studying in the United States.

"Saving started out of the blue, and I'm seeing that in my son too so it must be in the genes. He's so kiam siap (Hokkien for stingy), always trying to save everything," Mr Tay said with a laugh.

Q: Are you a spender or a saver?

I have been a very strong saver since primary school; I was already saving big-time then.

Whenever I had an allowance, I would save part of it, more than 50per cent of what I got. I saved all my Chinese New Year hongbao, everything, 100 per cent.

I'm definitely a saver but much more so when I was young. The older I get, the less of a saver I become. You reach a certain stage in life where you are reasonably comfortable and established, so you can start to enjoy life a little bit more, smell the roses.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

I travel quite a bit for work - it depends on where I'm travelling.

In a month, it could be $5,000 to $6,000 or $15,000, $20,000.

I have four credit cards and I've good reasons for keeping all four. If I don't use it, I won't keep it.

One card is for sentimental reasons because it was my first-ever credit card. It is an Amex (American Express) card, since 1985.

I've called them to say, if you want me to pay the annual dues, I'm going to cancel it. They said, whoa, you've been a member for almost 40 years.

Another gives me benefits for facilities like Tower Club, The China Club - I use it for lunches. If you spend enough, the yearly subscription is waived.

Even if I have to pay, it's worth it because I get a lot of air miles when I pay for renewals.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself? What do you invest in?

Being in the financial services industry, you're naturally inclined to make your money work harder.

I've been in the life insurance business for 28 years. I've worked for different companies, so you would imagine that I would have quite a number of insurance policies, more than the average person.

My protection plans are mainly from whole-life policies and I pay a lot of attention to health insurance. I get the best private Shield plans with the best riders, best benefits for myself and my family.

You definitely need good health insurance plans because of medical inflation and longevity.

For the savings and investments part, I was the first employee of my company to buy a retirement plan we launched last year, TM Retirement Life.

I'm a believer in unit trusts as a long-term investment. I allocate at least a third of my financial assets, excluding property, to unit trusts.

My all-time favourite is Aberdeen Pacific Equity. It's one of the most consistent, low-volatility Asia (excluding Japan) equity funds. I've invested in it since the late 1990s.

I also have blue chips, trading accounts - that's where I learn how to take some risks.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

I was disciplined as a kid. My parents sent me in 1982 to the United States, where I studied computer information science at the University of Florida.

Money wasn't really an issue; we were comfortable. But I was so disciplined, I wrote down all my expenses - I was able to let my parents know how I spent.

I recorded everything - how much I spent for lunch and dinner, how much on groceries - so I could account for the amount of money I was drawing out of the bank.

When I graduated in 1985, I had leftover money, of course.

Q: How did you get interested in investing?

I started getting interested in unit trusts in the 1990s. Investments also depend on where you are in life. In your 30s, you have a stable job and career and then you may start thinking of allocating some of your assets.

Q: What property do you own?

My parents' home, a bungalow in Clementi Park. I grew up there. We were the first residents of Clementi Park in the first row of bungalows built there in the late 1960s.

Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?

Cars. I love cars and golf... I've my own car, my wife Tina has a car and the office gives me a car as well so I think we have enough.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

I hope to be able to work for as long as I can meaningfully contribute to the organisation.

While my mandate is to grow the company in a sustainable manner and to groom the next generation of leaders for Tokio Marine Life Singapore, I do look forward to more hours on golf courses and taking more vacations with my family and friends.

Q: Home is now...

A bungalow near Holland Village, which is under my wife's name.

Q: I drive...

My personal car is a Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG. I look at my car all the time, I even talk to my car. You know, everything I have, I have a reason for it. I won't buy it and not drive it and let it depreciate.