Another year has slipped by which heralds the publication of the SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2017 – not a publication you would immediately subscribe to but interesting reading all the same.
Sun life have been conducting their research on funerals and the cost of dying since 2004 in which time funeral costs have increased by a whopping 112%. Unsurprisingly this year is no different; although a little lower than previous years, costs are still rising above inflation at a rate of 4.7% in 2017.
This means in a nutshell that the average cost of a funeral now stands at £4,078.
Why are funeral costs rising?
The Sunlife Cost of Dying report takes into account opinions from a survey of 1,524 adults who have recent experience of arranging a funeral and administering an estate and 100 Funeral Directors covering 10 regions of the UK.
There is no one reason why funeral costs have continued to rise but 58% of the funeral directors surveyed believed it to be linked to cuts in the central government funding increasing cremation fees.
In fact cremation fees in particular were one of the areas responsible for the biggest hike in costs with an increase of almost 8% to £791.
Other factors attributed to the increase include:
- Wage increases for local authority and crematorium staff and grave diggers
- An increase in Funeral Directors fees
- Rising fuel prices
- Mercury emissions abatement targets
- Increased costs and lack of space for burial sites
- Modifications and improvements to crematoriums and cemeteries
Comparing the cost of a funeral
The Sun life Cost of Dying Report 2017 also includes a very simple but poignant view of how funeral costs have increased in comparison to other essentials such as wages and house prices.
Over a period of just 10 years, the average price of a house has increased by 19.8%, wages have increased by 20% and petrol has increased by 19.6%. Electricity bills have increased at an eye watering 42.2% over this same period but believe it or not, that still doesn’t come close to the uplift in funeral costs.
Over 10 years funeral costs have risen by 70%; no wonder families need to start getting ahead of the game and making allowances in their everyday living costs for the cost of dying.
Variations in average funeral costs across the UK
No prizes for guessing that yet again London as well as being the most expensive place to live is also the most expensive place to die. In fact funeral costs in London are 46% above the UK average at £5,951.
Whilst the trend for funeral costs is upwards, two areas namely Wales and Northern Ireland have actually seen funeral costs drop in the last year with the latter being the cheapest place to die with an average cost of £2,982.
Of course the figures shown in the Sun Life cost of dying report 2017 are average figures based on both cremation and burial, however in certain areas the figures are somewhat skewed by the huge variation in burial fees.
In London for example the average cost of a burial is £7,311; 60% higher than the UK average of £4,561. However when you look at the figures for cremation fees, it’s the average funeral costs for the South East and South West that stand out.
Yes London is still the highest place for cremation funerals at £4591; almost 28% above the UK average of £3,596 however funeral costs in the South East are £4,155 and £4,117 in the South West so not that far behind.
Is Direct Cremation the new black?
We have certainly noticed that there is now greater awareness about direct cremations but will this form of ‘disposal’ for want of a better word every be considered as mainstream when compared to a more traditional style funeral service?
Direct cremation is a relatively new service which offers a cheaper alternative to a cremation funeral. There is no funeral service and no one in attendance; the deceased is simply taken directly to a crematorium for the cremation. It certainly wouldn’t be considered an appropriate choice for those who want the chance to pay respects, say goodbye and have a proper ‘send-off’ but a growing number of people are considering it as an option as at £1,835, the average cost is almost half that of a traditional cremation funeral.
Cost therefore tends to be the biggest factor for choosing a direct cremation and those funeral directors surveyed stated that of the cremations organised in 2017, one in ten were for direct cremation so the need appears to be rising.
So if you are looking to cut funeral costs, this could be an option worth thinking about however we always advise to talk to the family first before agreeing on direct cremation as the thought of not having a funeral can cause a lot of upset for those left behind.
If anything the Sunlife Cost of Dying Report 2017 confirms two things.
Firstly we all need to think about our own mortality and who will foot the bill when it comes to paying for our funeral. With costs averaging £4,078 and according to the SunLife report set to rise to almost £5,000 in just 5 years, this is not a small amount of money for a family to find, so plans should be made where possible to alleviate the financial and emotional burden.
Secondly if you are thinking about buying a funeral plan which means you avoid future inflation and pay today’s prices, it is wise to look for a plan like the Dignity funeral plan that guarantees the Cremation Fees and Ministers fees as well as the funeral directors costs.
Most funeral plans on the market only include a contribution towards these fees which means there could well be more for the family to pay when the time comes; especially when you consider that average cremation fees alone have increased by 8% to almost £800.
Therefore the moral of the story is choose wisely and ensure you know exactly what is and more importantly what isn’t included in the plan.
Above all talk to your family about your wishes, it may seem a difficult subject to approach, but one that's best to have when you are still around than to leave your family wondering what you would have wanted.