The death of a loved one creates an emotional whirlwind of feelings and responsibilities. And one important aspect of death that often gets overlooked is just how expensive it is to die.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the price of funerals in the United States has risen 227% in the last 30 years; that's twice as fast as other consumer prices.
So what makes dying so expensive? We have broken down the expenses related to dying and the best ways to prepare for your death and related expenses.
The most expensive part of death is usually paying for the funeral—which runs at an average of $10,000 in the United States. It is important to understand all the costs involved in a funeral, as many of the expenses are optional depending on the deceased or family's wishes.
The following is a list of common funeral-related expenses at their median price point, as reported by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) governs funeral homes under The Funeral Rule to protect consumers' rights when purchasing goods and services from funeral industry businesses. Under this law, funeral homes are required to provide itemized price lists to compare prices for consumers so they can buy only the desired goods and services.
Breakdown of Expenses
Funeral fees cover the necessary planning on the part of the funeral home, such as securing death certificates, making arrangements with cemeteries, and sheltering the remains. Transfer fees cover the removal of the body and transferring the remains to the funeral home.
Although The Funeral Rule states that embalming remains is not a required service, funeral homes may require it if you plan to have viewings.
Caskets are usually the most expensive item to purchase for a funeral. They typically range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 and up. Burial vaults or grave liners are not always a necessity, but sometimes cemeteries will require them.
Shoppers should be cautious if a funeral home offers to buy goods or services from outside vendors (I.e. flowers) on your behalf. This is known as a cash advance, and some funerals will charge you a fee on top of the cost for these items.
Opting for cremation over a casket can save a significant amount of money on end-of-life expenses. The NFDA stated that the average cost of a funeral with cremation ran around $5,150 in 2019.
Purchasing a burial plot can be very costly, and the price can vary significantly depending on the location and type of cemetery. You can purchase a plot at the historic Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx with plots starting at $5,000 and going up to $20,000. Mausoleums, the most costly option for burial, typically range anywhere from $1600 to $20,000.
Depending on the cemetery's restrictions, headstones can be purchased through the cemetery or another company, but cemeteries will usually charge a setting fee to cover the cost of placing the headstone at the plot. The price of the headstone greatly depends on the size, material, and finish. Flat basic gravestones average around $1000.
Along with the cost of the plot and headstone, cemeteries will likely charge interment fees to cover opening and closing the gravesite and replacing the sod, legal fees if a burial permit is required, and a maintenance fee for plot upkeep.
How to Prepare
Having your funeral and burial wishes written out in preparation for your death can save a lot of money and in general, can make things easier on your loved ones after you pass.
Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans don't have a will. Creating a legal will allows you to depict your wishes for funeral arrangements, such as whether you want to be buried or cremated. Be as specific as possible about your wishes about how money should be spent on your funeral arrangements.
It also helps to create a living will to specify the type of medical treatment you either want or don't want in the event that you are unable to communicate your wishes. And lastly, consider life insurance as an option to pay for your final expenses.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.