Saturday, September 7, 2013

The High Cost of Dying

I've been a licensed funeral director for 16 years now, involved in funeral services for closer to 20 years though.  My frustration with the ignorance of the public regarding costs of funerals is not diminishing, frankly it's increasing.  I have so many witty retorts (funeral pun intended) I'd love to throw out at people when they tell me that 'funerals are too expensive', etc., but I do my best to remain professional without sounding like I'm trying to convince them they are wrong.   (Because then I probably just come off sounding like a salesman which I can assure you, I'm the farthest from.)   So let's tackle some of these comments here shall we?

"Funerals are just too expensive!"  "Caskets are crazy expensive hey?"  "This is like, the 3rd largest purchase I've ever made in my life!"

<buzzer sound>  Wrong!  Let's try to break this down into simple math shall we?  It is estimated that the average cost of a funeral in Ontario is approximately $7000.00.  That's probably high to be honest.  Keep in mind though that this is an average taking into account everything from an immediate disposition to a pretty lavish traditional funeral.  Of course you could go even higher and more lavish if you wanted.  (We aren't including funerals for the likes of Michael Jackson here...just your average Joe.)  But lets go even better and round everything up to $10,000 because that seems to be a pretty standard number that most people associate with a traditional funeral. 

Just to be clear that $10,000 includes everything:  the funeral home staff services, embalming, the use of the facilities, the vehicles required, flowers, casket, urn/vault, stationary, video, cemetery grave preparation (that price goes up if you actually have to purchase a new cemetery plot though) or crematory fee, minister, organist, newspaper, the likes of those things.  So here are some fun facts about this. 

  • There are approximately 130 steps (probably more actually) required to fulfill and complete a funeral of this caliber.    So if we break it down, each step costs approximately $77.00 each.  Remember, that number ($10,000) is high now! 

  • Let's also pretend that the average human lives 77 years (and that's a pretty accurate number).  Those years equate into approximately (if you throw in about 19 leap years) 28,124 days of life.  That means that each person pays roughly 35 CENTS a day, for their own funeral.  How much do you spend a day on coffee?  Bottled water?  A can of Coke? 

  • Third largest purchase ever eh?  That's interesting....have you ever done repairs around your home (furnace/AC, weeping tile, metal roof, paved drive way)?  More precisely remodeled your kitchen?  How about sending a kid to college (don't forget to include the books and rent)?  What about a family vacation (to a far off place)?  Did you pay for a wedding, perhaps a wedding that wasn't even YOURS?  (This last one is hard for me personally to swallow because 1. I did pay for a wedding!  And 2.  I got nothing out of it, except a divorce [which cost me money too!]so that was all for naught!  What a bigger waste of $15,000 way back in 2000.)  So having thrown those examples out at you can you honestly tell me a funeral is the 3rd biggest expense you'll ever make in your life?  Be honest now... I thought not. 

  • Oh man, those damn caskets, what a rip off!  I found this tidbit of information a while back so I'll use it here to help illustrate again, how silly and naïve this statement is.  President Abraham Lincoln (we all know who he is right?) died in 1865.  That's an awfully long time ago.  He was buried in a casket made of SOLID walnut which was also lined with lead, covered in cloth.  Pretty snazzy if you ask me.  At that time his family paid $1,500.  Whoa, I'll agree with you that's a pretty steep price for a wooden box in that time period, but he was the President after all and it was lined with lead.  Let's now look at what this exact same casket would cost in 2009.  With a measly 5% inflation rate over the last 144 years on a $1500.00 casket, today President Abe's estate would be paying $2,480,625.00.  Yah you read that right folks, 2.4 million!  So maybe our prices on caskets aren't too bad after all.  Let's also put all that aside and think about the amount of man hours that goes into making a casket, shall we?
I'd also like people to give some thought to the amount of money our parents put into us throughout our rearing years (the majority any way).  Clothes, food, shelter, presents, gifts in kind, extra curricular activities, family vacations, personal time, toys, electronics, lessons, personal trips (summer camp, end of school year trips, etc.), post secondary schooling, et al.   You don't even need to add in the times in your 20's when your parents were still bailing you out whether literally or co-signing on a loan or giving you money to cover bills.  So that being said, you seriously have a hard time swallowing ten grand to give them a last fond farewell.  You have a problem with doing right by them?!  Shame on you. 

Phew!  So there you have it folks, some truths about funerals and how expensive they really are.  I feel so much better getting that all out there even if very few people read this.  I'll consider this my good deed for the day! 


  1. you forgot to mention that of that $10,000 much of it doesn't go to the funeral home at all... we kindly pay "cash disbursements" on your behalf so you don't have to worry about receiving invoices from several different parties... so knock a couple thousand off that calculation and it's even cheaper :)

    1. I seriously contemplated messaging you for some input while I wrote this post, because I knew you and others would have some valid points to include as well.

      This above statement is SO true. A large portion of a funeral account goes to companies OUTSIDE of the funeral home. We do that sort of thing as a COURTESY to the families we serve. :) But when people complain about the prices to us, they don't realize that it's not all us.

  2. Well said Holly........thank you