Benjamin Franklin famously said that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. While most people are ready for the April 15th tax deadline, many are not as prepared for life’s other inevitability.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recently asked consumers whether they were financially prepared for the death of a loved one and found that 83% either didn’t know how much funerals cost or weren’t prepared to pay for one.
According to the NFCC, the average funeral in America costs between $7,000 and $10,000. The March Financial Literacy Opinion Index, conducted by the NFCC each month via their website, asked people if they were prepared to pay the funeral expenses of a loved one.
More than half (60%) of the 949 people that responded said they weren’t prepared to pay for the funeral, and nearly a quarter (23%) had no idea how much a funeral costs. Only 17% knew what it cost and were prepared to fund it.
Guidelines for planners
While there is plenty of help readily available for people preparing their taxes, it’s not as easy to find advice about the financial realities of death. The NFCC offers the following suggestions regarding funeral planning and expenses:
- Talk about it and put it in writing. Let your loved ones know your wishes regarding your funeral, and ask them about theirs. Put it in writing and share with family members.
- Shop around. Even though comparison shopping for funerals sounds cringe-worthy, if you’re going to spend $10,000 it’s worth checking. Funeral and burial prices vary greatly so make sure you review your options.
- The funeral parlor is not the only place to buy a casket. Caskets are often the single most expensive funeral item, costing anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prohibits funeral homes from charging a handling fee for a casket purchased elsewhere.
- Try not to overspend. The casket and funeral plans are not a reflection of how much you loved someone. Don’t be pressured into spending more than you can afford in the midst of your grief.
- Get an itemized statement of costs. The FTC requires funeral providers to give you a full account of the costs of all goods and services provided.
The NFCC advises consumers to put as much thought and preparation into funeral planning as they do in paying taxes. The nonprofit agency can offer assistance to people who need help budgeting for costs associated with funeral preparation. Contact them at 800-388-2227 or through their website, www.DebtAdvice.org.