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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Because of a serious illness that resulted from taking a certain medication, I recently received a settlement of more than a million dollars. I have invested most of the money, and have a cash flow sufficient to take care of emergencies and a few luxuries. I must make sure that these funds will cover medical expenses for the remainder of my life.

Ever since I received the settlement, my family (children, parents and siblings) think I'm very rich and that my money is their money, too. They constantly ask me to bail them out of one financial mess or another, or to buy them luxury items. I have helped them out of tight spots in the past, but they have always squandered their money and have never saved a dime for the future.

I go to bed each night sick to my stomach because of the guilt trips they put me through when I refuse their requests for money. They expect me to pay for everything.

Abby, am I being selfish? -- S.F. IN COLORADO

DEAR S.F.: No, you are being prudent. Instead of giving them money, encourage your relatives to enroll in credit counseling or money-management courses offered at many colleges. Remember the adage: "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he'll eat for life." Continually bailing out family members is doing them no favor. Take care of your own needs and let them take care of theirs.

DER ABBY: There is a girl at work I really like. She is not only physically attractive, but her interests are also similar to mine.

Recently we had lunch together. I gave her a rose and a card with a short message telling her how terrific she is. She read the card after we had our lunch, and the next day I asked her what she thought of it. She told me she "loved it," and complimented me on my spelling and grammar.

I really like her, but she recently ended a long-time relationship, and I don't want to put her on the spot. How can I find out if she likes me as more than a friend, without hurting our existing friendship? -- IN LOVE ON LONG ISLAND

DEAR IN LOVE: She has already conveyed an important message. Since she commented only on your spelling and grammar -- and not the message in the note you sent her -- she's interested only in a platonic relationship.

DEAR ABBY: I thought maybe your readers would be interested in something I thought of the other day. At one minute and one second after 1 o'clock in the morning on Jan. 1, 2001, the numbers will look like this: 01:01:01, 01/01/01. It won't happen again for 1,000 years! Pretty cool, huh? -- CHRISTY DAY, MOBILE, ALA.

DEAR CHRISTY: Way cool, and a new beginning.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Happy New Year! While enjoying New Year's Eve festivities, please remember: If you drink, don't drive; if you drive, don't drink!

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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