Planning for the inevitable

Do you have a spare $9500?

If not, you may wish to think about where that money might come from when it comes time to pay for your funeral.

The Cost of Death report, commissioned by insurance provider Australian Seniors, showed Australians spend an average of $9403 on burials in the previous 12 months, with some paying close to $20,000 to farewell their loved ones.

Even if you opt for the generally less expensive option of a cremation service (at an average price of $5591), is it an amount you will pre-pay or will you just cross your fingers and hope your surviving children can foot the bill?

It is certainly something to consider. The report revealed more than three in five (68.4 per cent) of those who paid for a funeral following the death of a close relative suffered financial stress for six months or longer.

In fact, the report reveals funeral costs have been steadily increasing at a rate of between 6-11 per cent since 2011, with the cost of a basic cremation having more than doubled from $1435 in 2011 to $3108 in 2019.

According to funeral directors, factors driving funeral costs include the cost of a burial plot, staff and supplier costs, the report said.

But with information now increasingly accessible, particularly online, funeral directors believe consumers are more aware of the various funeral options and costs.

They noted this growing cost-consciousness had seen some reluctance amongst consumers to shell out for funerals as they underestimated the work involved.

"One of the big issues in the industry is where people say, well how can you charge that much for an hour's work? Where behind the scenes, I think it's 28 hours per funeral," one NSW funeral director told researchers.

A Victoria-based funeral director quoted in the report said: "They'll have difficulty paying a $4000 or $5000 service fee because, what service are you offering? We've asked you simply to go the aged care facility, pick up the body, prepare it, put it in the coffin, lodge the notices and apply for the death certificate. So, we don't need you for anything else. So, what's that cost?"

Australian Seniors spokesperson Sarah Richards said while people were becoming more open to having conversations regarding death than they had been in the past, only one in four Australian seniors had a plan for their funeral in place.

"As a result, relatives and loved ones are often forced to plan a ceremony while they are grieving," she said.

"Through the insights gained from The Cost of Death report we are hoping to raise awareness around the importance of having conversations around death and dying with our families and friends and also putting plans in place to reduce the burden on those close to us."