You know how the saying goes. In life, only two things are certain: death and taxes. So from a financial standpoint, you need to plan for both.
Funeral costs are always on the rise. If you're ill-prepared, it can create a financial strain on your loved ones after you've passed. However, you can alleviate this burden by ensuring the financial aspects are handled well before you have your last hurrah.
In this article, we'll provide you with budgeting tips, ways to save when planning, and what you can expect when putting together your memorial fund.
Five Factors to Consider Before You Begin Planning Your Memorial Fund
If you haven't thought much about your funeral, we don't blame you! But that may mean not being familiar with all that goes into one. You'll need to decide between burial, cremation, or crypt interment.
Choosing Your Casket
If you're opting for burial or interment, then you'll need to choose your casket. There are also several types of materials to choose from, all of which will come at a different price. These include:
- Hardwood Caskets, which can be made with cherry wood, mahogany, etc.
- Cremation Caskets, which will require you to make a decision regarding the storage of your remains.
- Wood Veneer Caskets, which are more affordable than hardwood
- Metal Caskets, usually made of 18 gauge or 20 gauge steel
- Bronze & Copper Caskets, which are known for being rust-resistant
- Stainless Steel Caskets, which are more affordable because of their appearance, but just as durable as bronze and copper.
- Green Caskets, which are biodegradable.
Type of Your Memorial Service
You'll also need to think about the type of memorial service you'll have. You could go for the traditional route based on your religion. For example, traditional Christian funerals often include a viewing and small service either at a church or funeral home. In Muslim and orthodox Jewish faiths, cremation and embalming are prohibited, and the bodies are buried immediately following a ritual cleansing. Hindus and Buddhist funerals all practice cremation.
However, tradition isn't necessary. You may not want a full-service funeral at all. Instead, you can have your family gather to celebrate your life with a memorial party at home.
Your Financial Goals
When planning, you'll want to set a realistic goal for your funds. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average overall cost ranges between $6.7K~$10K, depends of the funeral service type and your location.
Planning gives you the time to save and have everything set up for your family.
We recommend having a financial goal of $5,000 at minimum. Detailed planning and familial support can certainly lower these costs, but it's best to remain on the safe side. If there's leftover money from your memorial savings, you can gift it to your family or even donate it to an organization in your name.
Cost of Funeral Expenses
As we mentioned, median funeral costs run between $6.5K~$10,000K. This will vary depending on the products and services you purchase. For example, having a casket vault costs just above $1,000. If you exclude the vault, then your viewing and burial go down to $8,000.
Here is a pricing breakdown of traditionally used services:
- Venue rental for service: ~$500
- Embalming: ~$750
- Cremation fee: ~$350
- Printed materials: ~$175
- Cremation casket: ~$1,200
- Metal burial casket: ~$2,500
- Wood/fiberboard/fiberglass or plastic casket: ~$2,000
- Urn: ~$295
If you wish to have a mahogany, bronze, or copper casket, expect to pay upwards of $10,000.
The cost is also impacted by your location, the funeral home you choose, and the burial site. Our numbers don't include plots or gravestones. Plots can cost around $1,000, while gravestone pricing will depend on its extravagance.
The bottom line: have a realistic budget for your expectations and give it to your family ahead of time. It may be a scary or uncomfortable discussion, but it will help the folks you love most when it comes time to make the arrangements.
Strategies to Reduce Your Funeral Costs
Remember, you have plenty of options when it comes to your funeral. A memorial fund doesn't need to break the bank; it just needs to ensure you and your family are taken care of. Below, we discuss ways to save:
A funeral home may raise the price of a casket or urn, should you choose their packages. However, purchasing from a specialized casket seller like Trusted Caskets company can cut the cost of the middleman.
Seek a quote from every source you come across and compare to find the most appropriate price.
Opt Out of Embalming
Above, we said the typical cost for embalming is around $750. However, no law requires it for the majority of funerals.
If you're choosing a one-day memorial, ask your funeral home if they offer refrigeration instead. This will still preserve your remains until burial and may significantly reduce savings.
Cremation in Wood Casket
The casket is not a mandatory for the cremation, but if you plan to do the memorial service or viewing to say your last goombay, there is a beautiful cremation caskets available as well.
Have An At-Home Funeral/Memorial Ceremony
Your friends and family can celebrate your life at home. In most states, a community, family, individual, or religious group may handle death without a funeral director.
In this case, you need still have a funeral casket. You just won't need to pay for the services of a funeral home.
Look At Different Cemetery Locations
The location of your funeral can greatly impact pricing. So definitely check out a few places before deciding on your final resting spot.
Additionally, some cemeteries may have certain grave aesthetic requirements. For example, a cemetery may require a person to have a vault or specific style of hedge stone. These aren't necessities, and you can avoid these costs by choosing a different burial spot.
Of course, thinking about these decisions can feel overwhelming. However, planning ahead of time ensures your memorial fund will allow for a beautiful ceremony. Plus, creating a full plan eases the financial aspect for your family, saving them additional stress during a stressful time.
Four Ways To Start Your Memorial Fund
You have a few options to pay for your memorial fund. Read about them below.
Set Up Dedicated Savings Account
One of the most common ways to prepare is by opening a designated savings account for your funeral. Your family can access it in case of emergencies as well, which is why it's ideal.
A savings account allows you to collect interest over time, depending on your bank selection and deposits amounts. Don't automatically choose your present bank. You can find the best rates by shopping around with local credit unions or smaller financial institutions.
You can set up automatic transfers, where money is deposited every week/month. It doesn't matter the amount, so long as it works with your lifestyle budget.
Don't be afraid to start small with your initial deposit — you have your whole life to save. This is just about preparation, and you can adjust your deposits as you get used to saving.
Just remember to remain patient. It can be tempting to access funds, so don't touch it. Over time, you'll see it grow and feel at ease knowing you and your family are taken care of when the time comes.
Prepaid Funeral Plan
If you know which funeral home you'd like, many offer a prepaid memorial fund plan. The advantage here is covering expenses while you're alive, so your family doesn't need to handle the debt.
Paying ahead also locks in your price point, so you don't have to worry about inflation. The cost for a casket alone has increased 230% between 1986 and 2017, to give you an idea of how inflation affects this industry.
There are disadvantages to this option too, though. If you wish to relocate later in life, your family will have to cover the funeral's transportation and travel costs. If the funeral home you've selected goes out of business, then you may not recover your funds, so be careful choosing your funeral service provider.
Life Insurance Covering Funeral Costs
Life insurance gives financial security to your loved ones, and you can select a policy specifically for memorial expenses. Just make sure to get a permanent policy, as you'll be covered for your whole life and won't outlive your coverage.
Permanent policies can even accumulate cash value, which grows tax-free in an investment or savings account. You'll have your memorial expenses covered and provide your loved ones with financial security.
Sometimes, emergencies happen, and you may find yourself dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one. If no savings account or life insurance policy exists, you may turn to a crowdfund for a memorial fund.
You can choose an appropriate platform and set up a fundraiser for funeral costs, allowing your community to rally behind you and your family. This shouldn't be your own personal plan and should be left for emergencies only. You can't guarantee how much money you'll raise, and it's better to be prepared.
However, crowdfunding can be used for other aspects of a funeral, too. Some people set one up to donate to a charity in a loved one's name, provided additional financial support for a grieving family, or act as a scholarship for the younger generation. If this is something you'd like for your memorial, discuss planning it out with your family before.
Talking about and planning for death is not on the top of anyone's agenda. It can be easier to pretend it doesn't happen at all. But preparing a memorial fund gives your family room to grieve without navigating financial strain. And you can rest easy knowing you'll be well taken care of.
Start by choosing a budget and figuring out how you'd like to celebrate the end of your life. From there, you can start a savings account, pay ahead of time, or research life insurance policies.