Of course this question is rhetorical, because I believe solidly that it IS unsustainable. Look no further than recent college grads and the student loan debt they are carrying to know that this system is seriously flawed.
Each and every financial decision we make every day from our morning coffee to how we withhold taxes from our paychecks is representative not only of our own values and priorities but those of our culture…and our culture definitely wants you to keep spending money.
I read a book some years ago titled “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety” by Judith Warner. It was excellent and I benefitted greatly from reading it. One of the points the author made was that we mothers of the 21st century have been basing our mothering on (and using mothering role models from) a literal blip in history: The 1950s, when moms were fit and pretty homemakers who wore pearls and dresses while cleaning the home, who baked cookies from scratch for the school bake sale and who had a martini and slippers handy for their beloved husbands when they got home from work. No where else in the history of mankind has mothering looked like this.
This is a ridiculous model to model.
We are doing the same thing with our financial modeling.
Our parents and grandparents may have worked for a company their whole lives and that company may have provided a pension to them in addition to their Social Security benefits, and frequently paid for health insurance.
We don’t have that as a typical model anymore, and besides, people are living much longer than before (which should be a good thing, right? Well, not if you don’t have enough money. Cue the rise of the financial planner and the need for health insurance.)
Our parents and grandparents did not have computers, cell phones, two cars, multiple televisions, internet service, easy credit and so on. Our lifestyle has certainly gotten more comfortable and technically savvy, but it comes at a price. We are spending more than ever and yet never before has saving for the future been more crucial.
If we are functioning from a different set of components, how can we continue down this road as if we have the same parts? We are building something quite different now, and we all must agree to the blueprints in order for it to work. But in order for it to work long-term, we all must change our thoughts on work, income, expenses, debt, life, death and happiness…and if we do, it’s likely we will end up with a product that’s distinctly different but ultimately more robust and sustainable.