You don’t need a businessman like me who offers financial advice for a living to tell you the current cost of living crisis is squeezing pockets across the United Kingdom. Or that high inflation is putting pressure on businesses to raise wages, something that risks stoking further inflation. It’s tough out there and getting tougher.

In the face of such negativity, it’s easy for some, particularly young people, to give up hope of a better financial future. A lack of optimism could be one explanation for why young workers appear to be deprioritising long-term employment perks like pensions in favour of more short-term perks like subsidised transit. New research commissioned by my firm True Potential confirms British workers have their financial priorities back to front when it comes to what perks they value when considering jobs. Young people seem to prefer perks that are ultimately meaningless to their long-term financial security. Older workers, meanwhile, are more focused on the long run when they should already be well down the track to a secure retirement and able to enjoy more ephemeral employee perks like gym memberships. We need to flip that around.

As ever, the best plan to beat a financial squeeze is to start saving early; compound growth over time is still the best guarantor of financial flexibility as you age. And the fate of older workers should serve as a warning to this younger generation. Our figures suggest that older workers are more concerned about their pensions than they are about workplace benefits. While it is only natural for people to start to worry more about the size of their pension pots as they approach retirement, it doesn’t have to be this way. If those aged over 45 had engaged earlier and invested in their pensions sooner, then they would be far better off in retirement.

Let’s take a practical example. If someone starts paying into their pension at the age of 30, paying in £225 a month at an average of 7 per cent growth after charges (a rate delivered by our most popular investment portfolio), then by the age of 65 their pot would total £405,237. If, by contrast, that same person were to start paying into their pension at the age of 25, paying in the same amount at the same rate of growth, then by the age of 65 their pot would total £590,582, a nearly 46% increase. In other words, five short years can make a lifetime of difference. Now imagine how much rosier the retirement picture gets if the government were to make pension auto-enrolment available to workers as young as 18?

Now comes the tricky part: finding practical ways to make pensions exciting for young people. Delaying gratification, financial in this case, is always a tough sell. Then again, today’s tough conditions should produce a more receptive audience. What we mustn’t do is hector and shame young people over their choices; a better tactic is education.

Schools in this country do too little to prepare the next generation for the management of their personal finances in adult life. To remedy this, there needs to be a concerted effort from regulators and the financial services sector to encourage better saving habits among young people and rebalance these generational priorities. Our business has funded free online courses on financial education at the Open University, reaching nearly one million people, and I would encourage others to make similar investments.

Many people called for us to learn lessons from the pandemic so that we can better deal with similar viral outbreaks in the future. It should be no different for the current cost of living crisis. We should take stock of previous failures and channel that insight into future progress. Shifting the mentality of young people to think more about their pensions will ensure they can either be better prepared for difficult times ahead or be able to enjoy, even more, the seeds that they sow now. While transitory office perks may be commonplace in the modern job market, we must not allow young people to forget about pensions, the foundation of long-term financial stability.

Daniel Harrison is the chief executive of True Potential.