We Need To Talk (How to Fight About Money)

"We need to talk." It can only mean the worst, right? You have done something wrong, you have neglected something, a decision has to be made that is more adult than you want to be, or -- the worse worst -- you haven't done anything or neglected anything but your partner has and wants to confess something you don't want to hear.

Or (breathe a sigh of relief) it is time to talk about money. For those of you who think the money talk is boring, it is. Not only dry, but irritating. For those of you who think the talk is so boring it is best silenced, here are a few reasons to grow up before your partner decides to seek adult companionship.  

Neglecting your money, which begins but does not end with the money talk, leads to the kind of excitement functional people don't want to have, such as foreclosure,  ruined credit, lost jobs, chronic underachievement, unrelenting stress, resentful grown children who wish you'd not figured that paying for their college would make them rich enough to pay for your medical expenses in retirement, if you can retire.   

Step One: Cash Flow (Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Financial Life)

Find out how much you make, per month, after all taxes and benefits and any retirement savings or insurance premiums are nicked out of your paycheck. List this on a spreadsheet, a piece of paper, a free budgeting tool, a notebook, whatever actually works for you (as opposed to what you actually want to work for you but doesn't). Find out how much you spend. ON EVERYTHING. This is the step not-quite grown up people skip because if feels petty. Au contraire, it is very petty to skip this step. Most people have no idea, so don't beat yourself up, just figure it out, then have a talk to the other adult who is in charge, if there is one.  At this point, and only at this point, are you actually prepared to really fight about money, using real numbers. Anything else is fighting about what you think is money but is probably some other control, shame, aggression, insecurity issue (which all feel like money) you have been wrestling with. You will probably have to cut back, but with the numbers right there, it is easy to see where and how. You may have to make more, and the numbers will tell you how much. Having this talk can prevent oh so many other way more awful talks in your future. (see above, add empty college accounts and dashed hopes).