In this video a former family counselor at a funeral home explains his experience being trained to take advantage of vulnerable survivors when planning funerals. He was paid 30% commission on the total cost of a funeral.
Crash Course is a wonderful series of webcasts on various topics (economics and more). This item isn’t solely on affordable funeral services but it is pretty closely related so I thought it would be interesting to many of our readers, enjoy:
One of the import issues they discuss is the huge amount of health care spending at the end of life.
They also do discuss funeral costs: median price for funeral and burial in the USA was $7,181 (not including burial plot or the headstone) and for a funeral and cremation was $6,078.
The webcast recommend planning as the best advice to reduce costs of end of life care and funeral costs and we agree. As we have said in other posts, the funeral industry often plays on people’s fragile emotions to drain their bank account. By planning ahead and not leaving your survivors venerable you can help them avoid being taken advantage of.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released a report based on a national survey of the prices and price disclosures of a representative sample of 150 funeral homes from ten different regions of the USA.
The survey revealed significant price differences – for example, from $2,580 to $13,800 for a full-service funeral – and the failure of most funeral homes to disclose their prices adequately: Only 38 of the 150 homes (25%) fully disclosed prices on their websites, while 24 (16%) failed to fully disclose prices both on their website and in response to an email and a phone call.
“Most funeral homes need to give consumers much better access to price information,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s Executive Director. “The Federal Trade Commission should update antiquated disclosure rules developed in the pre-Internet 1980s, just as California has successfully done,” he added.
For example, California requires funeral homes to disclose on their websites the same prices the FTC requires funeral homes to disclose by phone or in an in-person visit. 13 of 15 surveyed California funeral homes fully disclosed prices on their websites.
“The FTC needs to require funeral homes to disclose prices clearly and completely on their websites,” said FCA’s Slocum. “This disclosure will greatly increase consumer search for price information. It will also allow journalists, consumer information services, and consumer groups to much more easily research, compare, and report on prices,” Slocum added.
See our previous post on shopping for funeral services.
Full press release on the national funeral cost study.
in 1972, the Federal Trade Commission began a decade-long investigation into the industry’s anticompetitive practices. In 1984 the FTC passed the Funeral Rule, which ended prepackaging and forced funeral homes to provide price sheets and offer services and products a la carte.
The law also requires funeral homes to let consumers bring their own casket at no charge. Malamas was far from the first to spot an opportunity. Online retailers began appearing in the late 1990s, and Costco jumped into the game in 2004, to much media coverage….
In 1960 fewer than 4 percent of dead Americans were cremated, according to the Cremation Association of North America. In 2012 the figure was 43 percent and is expected to continue rising. Cremations cost less than a third of traditional funerals.
Consumers deserve better than the exploitation of their emotions by those seeking to charge outrageous amounts for funeral services. We need entrepreneurs like Jim Malamas, ACE Caskets, and large companies like Costco that are focused on customer value instead of those trying to line their pockets when people are emotionally vulnerable.
Cremations are increasing for several reasons but the high cost of burial is likely a very significant factor.
The large companies are needed to fight the law suits brought by those taking advantage of consumers today and to fight through the corruption of the current system. The corruption of the current political system is used by those taking advantage of consumers to give politicians cash so they will introduce anti-competitive practices into state regulation and laws. These are overturned with enough cash to pay lawyers to fight the corruption but it costs money so we need large companies that can afford to fight it to be involved.
Related: Shopping for Funeral Services (FTC help for consumers) – Statistics on cremation – Funeral Director Comments on the Bad Practices in the Funeral Industry – Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death
I would rather reduce the excessive costs the system currently imposes. But that is still a work in progress. As long as the excessive costs remain this is one option for those that don’t leave an estate sufficient for covering the costs.
With the average funeral now topping $7,045, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, families often find that saying goodbye to their loved ones comes with a higher price tag than they anticipated.
GoFundMe is currently hosting more than 8,000 funeral campaigns.
A crowdfunding campaign can also turn into an online memorial, a place for loved ones to share special memories and connect with others in a shared grief.
“The original intent and purpose [of a funeral crowdfunding campaign] is to raise money but, in a dark time, it’s also a place to celebrate a loved one’s life,” says Vargas. “It brings people together from all over the country who can’t make it to the funeral but want to say goodbye.”
I do like the idea of online memorials that let people share their thoughts and feelings.
Sadly our world if full of scammers. I would donate to one of these funds without real world confirmation that it was properly set up. I can certainly imagine criminals will post such things about people that really died and then take the money and run. This is sad, but I feel a likely scenario.
I am frustrated with how some people take advantage of others who are facing a difficult time in their lives when coping with the deal of a loved one. People have enough to deal with when a loved one dies they should have honest and well meaning advice to help guide them. This site aims to do that as part on my new site on money matters in general.
I actually remember hearing about the pressure tactics used by some to get people to pay way more for a coffin than they would chose to given all their other priorities. The prices are often incredibly high and the tactics used to pressure people into paying more by making it seem like avoiding wasting money on a funeral casket is somehow a sign of not enough love for the deceased I find disheartening. For my father’s funeral our friend made my father’s casket himself and some of those he worked with dug his grave. How much more loving a gesture can there be? That is far more special I think than spending huge amounts of money.
I can’t remember exactly how it happened. I can’t remember if he said he wanted a simple pine box coffin first, I think he did. It is the type of thing he definitely would have wanted – a simple coffin. He wouldn’t want to waste money on a fancy casket. He spent money much more sensibly in my opinion, on things like travel, saving for retirement and paying for his kids education. What is right for each person is up to them and those that love them, but equating the fanciness of the casket with how much the person is loved and respected is wrong.
A funeral is a difficult time. And a meaningful time. And a time when people are venerable. I hope this site can help people find honorable solutions that are also affordable and fitting for their needs.