The cost of a funeral has risen from just $983 in 1971 to over $9,100 today. Unfortunately, the cost to die is expensive folks! Meanwhile, as a result of the rise in funeral costs, cremation rates have SOARED from just just 6% to nearly 50% in the same time period. Cremations “only” cost $5,150 a body, or roughly 43% less than a funeral. Let’s take a further look at the costs of funerals versus cremation.
Here’s a look at much the cost to die has risen over the years. This first table below shows the current and historical median funeral cost in the U.S.
Median Funeral Cost In The US
It costs over $9,100 today for a funeral in the US. Man that’s expensive. The median funeral cost in the US has been on the rise. The rising cost to die doesn’t appear to slow anytime soon.
Median Cremation Cost In The US
Although far from a bargain, cremation is much cheaper. The current median cremation cost in the US is $5,150. This also clearly indicates the cost to die is expensive.
Cost Of Funeral Versus Cremation
As you can see, funerals cost approximately 43% less than cremation today. That’s a significant savings on an expensive and necessary expense. With proper planning and financial discipline, however, the expense can be manageable.
Some people purchase final expense insurance or burial insurance to ensure their loved ones will not be burdened with the cost of a funeral or cremation services. In my opinion, most people are better off purchasing a term life insurance policy to cover end of life expenses. You get much better value for your money.
US Cremation Rate
With the rising costs of funerals and cremations, it’s no wonder that cremation is gaining more popularity due to its savings. It’s also much more “green.”
Here’s a look at the rising historical rates of cremation in the US. The rates for 2020 and beyond are projections.
Death And Religion
I used to think that cremation was more of a religious thing. If you ever travel around Asia, you’ll find that cremation is the way to go, especially in Buddhist, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism countries.
Cremation is believed to not only dispose of the body in this life, but also usher the soul into the next world or its rebirth into the next life.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have traditions that frown upon cremation, if not outright prohibit it.
For those of you who represent one of these three religions, is cremation really that bad? Islam, for example, instructs its followers to bury their dead as quickly as possible, preferably within the day of the death.
Given the above charts are for the USA, it’s curious to see such a high cremation rate when roughly 79% of the US population is Christian, 1.7% of the US population is Jewish, and 0.6% of the US population is Muslim.
If cremation was really frowned upon in these three religions, one would expect the cremation rate in the US hover closer to around 20% rather than 43%.
So what gives? The answer must clearly have to do with the rapid rise in funeral costs. Money is trumping religion in this case, as it does in many cases in society. It costs a lot to die for average people nowadays, and folks who have estates in excess of $11.58 million per spouse thanks to the death tax.
What If You Can’t Afford A Funeral Or Cremation?
I highly doubt it’s legal to take a dead body of a loved one and burn it yourself or bury him or her in your backyard.
In other words, you’re going to have to pony up at least $5,150 for a cremation and probably closer to $10,000-$15,000 for a burial and a wake. If you’re one of the thousands of people out there who are living paycheck to paycheck for whatever reason, this could be a problem.
- Go into credit card debt.
- Borrow money from friends and family.
- Ask the funeral service for a payoff plan.
- Exchange funeral services for services or items (bartering).
- Create a fundraiser. If there’s one time to ask for money from strangers, this could be it.
- Use a life insurance policy payout.
Life Insurance For Funerals
I haven’t had to think about funeral costs yet because my immediate family are all still alive. But eventually, all of us will die, and this subject has really made me focus on what type of life insurance policy I have for my dependents.
I gave my life insurance carrier a call and made sure my life insurance policy would cover ALL debts by 150% in case of my death. Not only that, I increased my umbrella policy by 50% given my net worth has increased over the past two years.
My wife also recently increased her life insurance policy. She wrote a great post you should read on how to get more life insurance for less money. Now she has more coverage for less than her old policy cost.
Here are some more suggestions to help you better manage the cost to die and everything in between on your financial journey.
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Updated for 2020 and beyond.