If you’re like most people, the last thing you want to think about is how much a funeral—for yourself or a loved one—is going to cost. However, it’s a reality that we all have to confront at some point in our lives.
Tempting as it may be, putting off final expense planning often comes at a literally high price for those left with the bills. Frankly, death adds up and financially preparing for this inevitability is essential for easing the weight of an already difficult time.
When beginning to plan for a funeral, the most important thing to understand is the cost—and it’s probably more than you’d think. In fact, the price of an average funeral has risen twice as much as most other commodities in the U.S. at a staggering 227.1% since 1986 vs. 123.4% for everything else.
So how much does the average funeral cost today? Where exactly is all that money going? And what are the smartest ways to pre-plan and diminish the expenses and stresses of arranging a funeral.
Breaking Down the Costs of a Funeral
At least when it comes to finances—death isn’t the end. Modern funerals are more expensive than ever, and the prices keep rising. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2017, the median cost of an adult burial with a full viewing and burial in the U.S. runs $7,360. Add a vault and that number hits $8,755.
Here’s how the NFDA breaks down some the typical funeral costs:
|Basic Services Fee||$2,100|
|Facilities & Staff for Viewing||$425|
|Printed Service Programs||$160|
|Transportation of Body to Funeral Home||$325|
That’s not even including the extra costs like a post-funeral reception, musical accompaniment, grave marker, travel expenses, and much more. And this is just for the median price. It’s not unusual for a funeral to quickly run past $10,000 and higher without a second thought.
Choosing cremation helps with savings, but that doesn’t make it cheap. If you decide to skip the vault or niche, a cremation with viewing adds up up to a median of $6,260. Forgoing the viewing will typically save about another $1,000.
Can I Plan A More Affordable Funeral
Absolutely. The number one rule is to be prepared and understand your options. Some of these options that can significantly save money include looking into:
- Cremation vs. Burial
- Natural or Green Burial vs. Traditional Burial
- Direct Burial or Cremation
- Body Donation
- At-Home Memorial Service
Also, like anything else these days, always comparison shop if possible. There’s no standard price when it comes to the death industry so one funeral home may have wildly different prices than the other one down the street.
Shop Smart at the Funeral Home
Even if they’re not straight-up lying, funeral directors are notorious for “conveniently” leaving out more affordable choices. Whether you’re planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one, the more knowledge you gain about the industry, the more empowered you’ll be to ask the right questions and make better decisions for you and your family.
It doesn’t matter if it’s expected or out-of-the-blue. When death strikes, it’s human nature to be flooded with countless mind-numbing emotions. This causes many to make rash decisions when standing in a funeral home being asked things like:
- What casket would your loved one admire the most?
- Who will be paying the bill?
- Would you like live music at the memorial service?
- How many people do you expect at the viewing?
These are just a few of the many questions to expect. This is also where finances can quickly get out-of-control. If you’re already confident that a $1,200 metal casket is suitable, you’re far less likely to be convinced to purchase the $10,000 mahogany version.
Pre-Planning and Life Insurance
Few things ease the burden of this difficult time for your loved ones like the gift of pre-planning. Officially arranging these details is by far the best way to minimize costs and ensure all of your final wishes are carried out.
Pre-Plan and Pre-Pay for Your Funeral
Want to really make the process easy for your loved ones? Plan your funeral and prepay all final expenses prior to your death. Sure. It won’t be the most exciting appointment on your calendar, but imagine the relief of your loved ones when they call the funeral home and hear the words “Don’t worry. It’s all set.”
Not only will they not have to stress about arrangements, finances, or navigating the funeral industry, but you can rest assured that your desires will be carried out exactly the way you want.
Taking out a high-quality life insurance policy with enough of a payout to cover expenses is a fantastic way to ensure your loved ones don’t have to stress about finances when it comes to planning your funeral. During a painfully difficult time, it’ll mean the world to your family to have one less stressor and know they can carry out your wishes without worrying about that final bill.
Burial or Funeral Insurance
Essentially a small whole life insurance plan, burial or funeral insurance plans usually have payout of between $10,000–$20,000 that will be received by the beneficiary at the time of death. Though this money technically can be used for anything (unless specifically directed in your signed will), the idea is that it will be used to cover all funeral expenses.
If you have an adequate life insurance policy, you likely won’t need this separate insurance policy for your final expenses. However, if you don’t have life insurance, or think your current benefit might not be able to cover a funeral in addition to other expenses, burial or death insurance is a great option.
Completing a Will
Choosing to pre-plan, prepay and secure life or burial insurance is a great first step, but it’s not the final step. Unlike insurance alone, completing a will guarantees that your payout goes exactly where you desire—and that your final wishes are carried out.
Though completing a will with an attorney is wise for those with complicated finances or assets, free, legally binding wills are becoming exceedingly popular, can be completed in minutes online and are great options for many families.
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