Planning ahead: Setting aside funds for a funeral
“Comparison shopping is a key bargain-hunting strategy—especially, as it turns out, when you’re planning for your last big purchase,” said Kelli B. Grant in CNBC.com. Whether you’re planning ahead for your own funeral or arranging one for a recently passed loved one, death can be a major expense. The median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial was $7,181 in 2014, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Nevertheless, many consumers don’t shop around for funeral services, even though prices can vary dramatically. A simple cremation—with no ceremony, viewing, or casket—can range from $495 to $7,595, according to a new survey from the Consumer Federation of America and the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Full-service funeral prices range from $2,580 to $13,800. All the more reason to start your planning by setting a budget and cold-calling several funeral homes, even “amid the tears.”
“Getting clear information about options and prices can be a challenge,” especially when it comes to cremation, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Funeral homes are required by the Federal Trade Commission to provide prices and other information when discussing funeral arrangements in person or by phone. Homes must also tell consumers who choose cremation that they’re allowed to use their own container, bought outside the funeral home, for the remains. But the Funeral Consumers Alliance has found that more than 20 percent of funeral homes did not itemize prices for consumers who buy their own container. Another 22 percent left out the cost of the actual cremation, “apparently because many funeral homes use outside crematories that charge a separate fee of $200 to $400.” Always ask about additional costs. If nothing else, you’ll send the message that you’re an informed consumer.
“A good funeral is one that you plan before you die,” said Pat Mertz Esswein in Kiplinger.com. By researching your options and making arrangements in advance, you’ll save your family the stress of rushed preparations “and allow them to both grieve your passing and celebrate your life.” You can set aside funds for your funeral service with a “payable on death” account— also known as a “Totten trust”—at your bank or credit union. “The most significant way to save on a funeral is to request a ‘direct burial’ or ‘direct cremation,’” said Jim Miller in the Binghamton, N.Y., Press & Sun Bulletin. These no-frills options bypass the steps of embalming and viewing, which usually run between $600 and $2,000. To make your search easier, you can find price-comparison tools at websites like Parting.com and FuneralDecisions.com. Your local Funeral Consumers Alliance chapter can also provide referrals.