Can I Afford To Die?

funeral costs

A decent send-off may seem like a basic human right - but for many families in the UK, it's something that’s fast disappearing out of reach. The funeral industry in Britain is worth £2 billion and growing. This is on the back of price hikes that many of us struggle to pay.

How much will my funeral cost?

The average cost of a funeral in the UK is £4,271, and that’s just for the basics. Consider how much it is when you add in the cost of venue hire, limousines, and a memorial service. Not to mention that in some areas prices are at an all-time high (as much as £6,000+).

Since 2008, the average cost of a funeral has increased by almost 68%. The price for essential funeral items has risen at three times the rate of inflation. This has resulted in an average annual increase of 6.1% since 1980.

We shouldn't count on wages keeping pace with rising funeral costs. In the decade to 2017, wages rose by 20%, whereas the cost of a funeral rose by over 70%.Alarmingly, a death in the family can be enough to plunge those left behind into serious financial difficulty.

Understanding funeral fees

Between half and two-thirds of the final cost of a burial in the UK will be a result of funeral director fees. Most funeral directors will request a 50% deposit of their fees in advance. Which could mean a considerable bill to settle during a distressing time.

You don’t have to use a funeral director, but they do take care of many of the procedural and legal elements involved. Things like death and burial certificates, transportation of the body, and the coffin. The funeral director will also cover the ‘disbursement’ fees.

Discretionary vs Non-discretionary

Funeral homes are rarely small, locally owned businesses. They’re now owned by larger businesses that want to generate profit. That combined with rising energy costs and inflation means funeral fees continue to rise. The estimated average cost of a funeral will be £5,800 by 2020, covering funeral directors, officiating ministers and the basic cost of burial or cremation.

Discretionary fees (to cover services or items that you choose) can add another £2,000 or more to the final bill. These costs cover things like catering, flowers, venue, and the choice of headstone. A budget of £871 is the average. These are often decisions that are made and under extreme pressure. The costs and consequences can linger for years.

For religious ceremonies under the Church of England, burial fees are payable to the Diocesan Board of Finance and the Parochial Church Council. These costs are also on the rise, not least because available space is at a premium. A church service costs £164 on average, and £295 for burial within a churchyard.

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Where can I get help with funeral costs?

The price of a funeral is already beyond the average person’s ability to pay. The cost rose by more than 112% in the 13 years to 2017 and 1 in 6 of us struggle to meet end of life bills. This is what the sector refers to as ‘funeral poverty’. The average level of funeral debt was £1,318 in 2015. 

The only viable option for some is to put the cost on a credit card. Where ‘Funeral Services’ is listed on credit card bills, the average total is a staggering £1,114. There is a Social Fund Funeral Payment available from the government. Unfortunately, this too has been cut, and now only covers around a third of the funeral bill.

One option is direct cremation, with a plain coffin and no service. The ashes are simply returned to the family. These now account for somewhere between 2 and 8% of UK cremations but are much more common (32%) in the US.

Can we cope with a rise in funeral costs?

According to the Office of National Statistics, women can expect to live to 82.9 years, and men to 79.2.

However, as a society, we’re getting older. By 2036, almost a quarter of the UK population (23.9%) will be over 65. This means we need to be strategic when it comes to our later life financial planning. 

The latest data on funeral costs in the UK makes for grim reading, but it’s not an issue that improves when ignored. There is a way to relieve the eventual burden. It’s as simple as arranging life cover that guarantees a lump sum payout. Arrange your policy online or chat with a member of our team at our UK based call centre for more information.