Many life events can hit your wallet hard. Weddings, having a baby and buying a home all come to mind. These are often the most joyous occasions in a person’s life, the ones that you plan for years in advance. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a little something set aside to help cover these costs.
But what about unhappy events? Few people like to think about losing a loved one or passing away themselves. However, a death in the family can sometimes cause financial worry for those left behind.
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the average cost of a funeral is around $8,000 to $10,000.1 However, the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand puts the upper end closer to $15,000!2
This figure is much higher than the Work and Income Funeral Grant, which pays at most $2,128.10 and is means tested.3 As a result, many families may struggle to pay for funeral arrangements.
Why do funerals cost so much?
There are many items and services that go into funerals, and some vary widely in price. For example, a casket can easily top $10,000 by itself! Less expensive options are available, helping families control this cost.
However, sometimes loved ones are left with few choices as they arrange a funeral, often on short notice. Funeral directors don’t typically provide pricing guides or quotes. This can make it difficult to compare the prices and services provided between multiple funeral homes.
Then there are council-controlled burial plots—often one of the most expensive items families may need to purchase. Plots vary in price depending on where the deceased is buried. A plot in Auckland can be over $6,000, while one in Christchurch comes in around $2,700.4 And, some councils even charge a separate digging fee for the actual burial.
In addition to these high-ticket items, there are many other aspects to funerals that can quickly increase the overall cost. These might include things like:
- Funeral director fees
- Clergy or celebrant donations
- Memorial attendance book
- Order of service booklets
- Transportation for the family and the deceased
- Catering for the wake
There can also be fees for obtaining a copy of the death certificate or placing an obituary in your local newspaper.
The importance of planning
Given how difficult it can be to think about your own death, it’s not surprising that only 5% of Kiwis plan for their funerals.2 But given the cost, it could make sense to consider your family’s financial strength if you were to unexpectedly pass away.
Many families want to give their loved one the funeral “they would have wanted”, and sometimes end up spending more than they can afford doing so. A first step could be to think over your funeral wishes and write down your preferences. This could serve as a guide for your family, hopefully removing some of the stress and confusion they may feel as they arrange the service.
You may also want to help your family cover the cost of your funeral. Funeral insurance is one way to help ease your loved ones’ financial stress during an emotionally difficult time. A lump sum is paid in the event of your death that can be used to cover funeral costs or anything else your family may need. This could include things like settling final debts, paying household bills or taking a few days off work to grieve.
Thinking about death is never easy, but doing so may provide some peace of mind to your loved ones. Finding ways to help ease their financial burden now could save them some stress when you eventually say your final goodbyes.
This article was first published on 14 March 2017 and has since been updated with more current facts & figures.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.
1. Citizens Advice Bureau, What are some of the normal costs of a funeral?
2. FDANZ, Saving for your funeral is important to remember in Money Week
3. Work and Income, Funeral Grant (info current as of 6 July 2020)
4. Stuff.co.nz, Can you die for free? Saying goodbye, DIY style
* Based on a female non-smoker, aged 50.