R.I.P. - After You Go Out in Style
By Ric EdelmanFebruary 2012
Funerals, burials are becoming more customized — and costly.
When your turn arrives, do you want to leave this world in a blaze of glory — or are you content with cremation and an urn?
There are more funeral choices than ever these days — including many that allow for creativity and personalized accoutrements, depending on how much you want to spend on your funeral or that of a loved one.
Whatever you choose, you’re more likely to save money if you have a plan in place with all details spelled out — right down to the specific music you want played, if any. If you wait until you or your survivors are forced to make an emotional decision, you or they are likely to spend far more, and the deceased’s wishes might not be fully honored.
Baby boomers are changing the funeral industry in a big way. The trend is toward more customized, less conventional and more costly funerals.
The average funeral last year, including casket but excluding the plot, cost $6,650; it has risen 27% over the past 10 years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Many funerals now top $10,000.
About 45% of us are choosing cremation these days, up from 34% five years ago. That’s usually cheaper than burial, but even cremation is getting pricey — costing more than $3,000 in some cases.
Do you want a personalized urn — say in the shape of a miniature pool table or bowling ball? How about a “scattering ceremony”? One mom who always wanted to fly paid for a rocket-fueled distribution of her ashes. There’s also a growing interest in “green” urns. Many extras can make cremation and burial in an urn more expensive than a traditional burial.
Other costly, customized extras actually arranged and paid for include a Harley-Davidson casket for a motorcycle- riding dad and a custom-made giant pink balletslipper casket with a lace-up ribbon and pink bow on the toe, for which a woman paid more than $4,000.
If cost is not a concern, another option is to have your service broadcast online for distant relatives and friends who can’t make the journey. There were about 12,500 such webcasts last year — 2.5 times as many as the previous year.
Funeral homes are pushing many of these services. The industry expects to see a 3% revenue rise this year and small but steady growth over the next five years.
Besides writing out your funeral wishes in advance, there are other ways to economize and still get most of what you want. The FTC’s “Funeral Rule” requires funeral directors to give you an itemized price list and acknowledge that you are not required to buy caskets from them. The markup on caskets can be 300% or more, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance; buying online from a casket retailer is often cheaper. You can even get them at Walmart and Costco.
We all have to depart sometime, and it’s never been easier to go out in style.