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DEAR ABBY: I am one of your male readers, and this is the first time in 30 years of reading you that I have written. You were right to tell the woman who ran up $17,000 in debt to tell her husband, but you missed an important point. He sounds like my son-in-law, someone who has ignored his fiscal responsibilities in his marriage.

The husband may be the breadwinner, but he acts more like a teen-ager who turns his earnings over to the family and accepts an allowance. He has been hiding his head in a bucket of sand, but unless she arranges the "telling" in the company of someone he respects, he will lay all the blame on her. That third party should be prepared to lay it on him a little. Didn't he ever look at a bank statement or a credit card bill?

That woman may have a big problem, but her husband's is just as large or larger. -- P.S. IN FLORIDA

DEAR P.S.: That letter generated mail from both sexes. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I thought your reply to "Drowning in Debt" was amazing. No wonder there's so much credit card debt in this country, when people like you use the existence of the whole credit card problem to justify the overspending of the individual, i.e. "everybody else does it."

Your advice should have been short and simple: Tell your husband immediately, pay off the debt, and live within your income by living without what you cannot afford. When the debts are paid off, put into savings the amount you had been paying on debt reduction.

Judging from the lady's whining, I imagine she considers herself a victim in our new society of victims. -- LUCKY SHE'S NOT MY WIFE IN LOUISIANA

DEAR LUCKY: I told her to tell her husband and that, with the assistance of credit counseling, they could resolve this problem. I did not feel that laying more of a guilt trip on her than she was already feeling would be constructive or helpful. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My wife also took care of the bill-paying for the better part of 41 years. Only when she passed away did I discover how deeply in debt we were. To this day I regret not keeping a closer eye on our checkbook.

Your advice to "Drowning" was outstanding, but should include the husband. After all, he undoubtedly helped incur some of the debts. He should be willing to work with his wife to pay them off. It takes two to tango. -- SMART TOO LATE IN TENNESSEE

DEAR SMART TOO LATE: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your wife. I agree that it takes two to tango. It's sad, but some couples find it harder to talk about money than they do about sex. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I applaud you for recommending that "Drowning" contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The staff is wonderful, caring and helpful. The biggest problem some people have is admitting to a stranger that they have failed. But once you do, the counseling service helps you get through the rough times and on to financial freedom. Thanks again, Abby, for sharing information about that wonderful program with the public. -- CONSUMER CREDIT GRADUATE, SAN BERNARDINO, CALIF.

DEAR GRADUATE: You're welcome!

Readers, if you missed the column with the telephone number and Web address for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, they are: (800) 388-2227 and www.nfcc.org.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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