Dear Amy:

I have been married for almost six years. We are happy in all respects except financial ones.

We have no children, but now that we're settled into our careers, after graduate school, and have more money (two well-above-average incomes), we plan to conceive a child soon.

However, I have some serious misgivings. A running argument since we've been together has been our differing perspectives on money. We routinely fail to make ends meet each month (by $200 to $300) due to nonessential items, such as expensive gifts for friends and family, weekend trips to other cities and social or cultural events.

My priority is to pay off our credit card debt (which is now more than $20,000) and the more than $80,000 in student loans, and to save some money before we become parents.

There is a catch: My wife's 70-year-old widowed father is a multimillionaire, and she assumes that he'll help us out with a child and provide an inheritance eventually. Our current situation doesn't concern her at all, and I find her position delusional and misguided.

I almost feel like if we can't come to an agreement about how to go forward financially, we should split up at this point. Though, if her old man were to go tomorrow, our money problems would be over, at least for now. I feel powerless and it seems uncertain because we've never seen his will. He could still remarry and leave his fortune elsewhere.

What should I do?

Monetary Worrywart

Rather than wait around for her father to die, why doesn't your wife just head off to Vegas to play roulette?

My point is that she is gambling with your future and using the possibility of your father-in-law's inheritance as a reason to be irresponsible. (Among other possibilities, such as his living for two more decades, he might choose not to leave his money to people as financially inept as yourselves.)

Do not have a child until you work this out. Not because children are so awfully expensive, but because you, and especially your wife, aren't in a position to be good and effective parents, if you can't even take care of yourselves. You owe more than $20,000 in credit card debt? Shame on you. You may feel that your wife is wonderful except for this financial quirk of hers, but to me she sounds self-centered and immature.

You and your wife should see a counselor who will help you find positive ways to work on this as a couple. You should also find a qualified financial adviser who can give the two of you some strategies to get your financial house in order and see you regularly to track your progress.

You could get started by reading "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke," by Suze Orman (2005, Riverhead).

Dear Amy:

I have a nephew who, as a baby, came up with his own name for my mother-in-law when he could not talk very well.

My mother-in-law now wants my daughter, who is now starting to talk on her own, to also call her by that same name.

I feel that my daughter should come up with her own name for her grandmother and not "steal" from my nephew.

MK in South Carolina

Your daughter will not be "stealing" this nickname if she uses it. I sense in your letter a little competition, and if that is the case, I hope you'll get ahold of yourself.

The lesson I've learned from this fun dialogue with readers is that grandparents should decide what they'd like to be called. Kids have a way of coming up with their own charming approximations, and no coaching or coaxing on your end will help matters.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.