The latest SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2018 is now out, providing the latest news on funeral costs, as well as information on our attitudes to funerals and funeral planning.
The report is based on an online survey of 1,547 adults who were responsible for arranging a funeral and administering an estate within in the last four years, as well as telephone interviews with 100 funeral directors spread across the UK.
In contrast to the recent Royal London Funeral Cost Index published last week, this year’s SunLife Cost of Dying Report again shows an increase in average funeral costs of 4.7%; up from £4,078 in 2017 to £4,271.
Being such a hot topic over the last year, both reports hit the headlines this week of which we were happy to play a part, being quoted in the Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and BBC News.
Here’s some of the headline news from the SunLife report:
Funeral Costs increase across the board
The underlying message from this year’s SunLife report is that funeral costs have risen in all of the 15 years it has been tracking the market; a 122% increase since 2004 and if costs continue to rise at a similar rate, the average cost of a funeral in just 5 years time could be as much as £5,120.
It shows that in addition to Cremation and Burial fees increasing by 5.1% and 5.6% respectively, funeral directors fees have also gone up, mainly attributed to cuts in local authority budgets and funding. Lack of space for new graves was the biggest reason for the increase in burial fees, which adds weight to Royal London’s request for abandoned graves to be sensitively re-used.
In addition to spending more on essential funeral costs, an increase in charges for personal funeral services such as memorials, catering and venues, flowers, funeral notices and stationary was also recorded, bucking the downward trend from the previous two years.
Location, location, location
As touched on in previous SunLife Cost of Dying reports, where you live matters when it comes to paying for a funeral. No surprises for guessing that London is the most expensive place to die, with average funeral costs a whopping 37.7% above the UK average however this is mainly due to expensive burial fees. London burial costs are 57.1% above the UK average at £7,538, but when it comes down to cremation costs, it’s actually the South West that is the most expensive region in the UK with average costs of £4,365.
Northern Ireland continues to be one of the cheapest regions for funeral costs apart from when it comes to Direct Cremation, which is a cremation without a funeral service. For this relatively new funeral option, Northern Ireland is actually the most expensive area at £1,953; 12.3% above the UK average of £1,712.
In general terms, cremation and burial fees increased in 8 of the 10 regions reported. Only London and the South East saw a dip in cremation fees, whereas East and West Midlands and Wales benefitted from the drop in burial charges.
The new kid in town
Direct Cremation features in its own right for the first time in this year’s SunLife Cost of Dying Report, however disappointingly only 2% of those surveyed said they chose this no frills, low cost alternative.
Of course a cremation only funeral with no service will never appeal to everyone however what’s disappointing is that only 47% of respondents said they were aware of direct funerals. Therefore it is highly likely that the low uptake on this alternative to a more traditional funeral service is just through lack of awareness, also seen in the Royal London Funeral Cost Index Report and something that needs addressing as a matter of urgency.
Paying for a funeral
One encouraging statistic in the report is that 62% of the people that had died had made financial provision to pay for their funeral, which marks a 4% increase on 2017.
- 52% had savings and investments
- 29% had a prepaid funeral plan
- 15% had life insurance
- 15% had an Over 50 Life Insurance Plan
The concern is that only 59% of those who had put money to one side to pay for their funeral left enough to fully cover the cost. On average families had to find £2,559 to make up the shortfall, either by using funds from their bank or building society (14%), savings, investments or ISAs (9%), credit cards (6%), a loan (2%) or by other means (2%).
So whilst it’s good news that people are preplanning for their funeral, there needs to be greater awareness and transparency on actual funeral costs so families aren’t left to pick up the pieces.
It’s good to talk
One thing that would undoubtedly help families save money on funeral costs is to understand what type of funeral the person that has died would have wanted.
The vast majority of customers who visit Over50choices to buy a prepaid funeral plan do so because they want to save their family money and don’t want them paying for unnecessary services.
If only we started to talk and be more open about or preferences as a nation, we could reduce the number of families paying for costly unwanted funeral services. Unfortunately the report shows that when it comes to arranging a funeral, those surveyed didn’t really know what their relative or friend wanted because they hadn’t talked about it.
For example only
- 54% knew whether they wanted a cremation or burial
- 36% knew whether they wanted a religious or non religious service
- 27% knew what to do with the ashes
- 26% knew their preferred funeral music or readings
On the flip side, when it came to actually arranging the funeral, 17% felt overwhelmed with the amount of organisation required; 10% had disagreements with family members, 9% had difficulty raising the funds and 6% weren’t aware whether a funeral plan, savings or life insurance were in place; all of which could be improved upon if only we started to talk to each other.
When it comes to paying for or arranging a funeral, the strongest message to come out of this year’s Sunlife Cost of Dying report is the need for greater awareness and pre-planning.
Only by taking ownership of our funeral requirements will we relieve the financial and emotional pressure families across the UK continue to face.