Dying can be very expensive. Many debts and bills don’t die with us, but are passed along to our next of kin when we’re gone. Not to mention the funeral itself, which can cost upwards of $20,000 depending on the decisions, fees and hidden extras often pushed on us.

The reality is that not many of us have a spare $20,000 lying around, and the death of a loved one, particularly if it’s unexpected, means many people find it difficult to come up with the money needed to cover the costs. This can lead to a number of problems, including debt, stress, and difficulty paying for other necessities. When paying for a funeral causes financial hardship, this is known as funeral poverty.

In this blog we’ll explore the effects of funeral poverty, and how you can keep a funeral accessible and affordable.

Understanding funeral poverty.

To help understand how funeral poverty came about, let’s start with a funeral history lesson.

Across the western world, we are very distanced from death. After the Great Depression and World War II, life expectancy increased, death became taboo, and death was institutionalised. Dying in hospitals became commonplace, when previously dying at home was the norm. 

Our society became obsessed with ageing and doing everything to live longer. Funeral homes whisked the dead off and away from home. Even the way we consumed meat changed, from doing the killing ourselves to purchasing from a butcher. Death became so far removed from our daily lives that the fear began to seep in. And with the fear came “death illiteracy”.

Death literacy refers to the knowledge and skills that people need to understand and make informed choices about end of life and death care options. So to be death illiterate means the opposite - not having the knowledge and understanding to prepare for death in advance.

Death illiteracy is rampant in our society, and means when it comes to making decisions for loved ones who have died, we’re more easily exploited to make expensive financial decisions. Compounding that with the intense grief of losing a loved one, we’re unable to make informed and educated choices for a funeral, spending beyond our means and often leading to financial hardship.  

What factors contribute to funeral poverty?

Back to modern day, the lack of death literacy is still widespread, but there are a few other factors that have contributed to the rise of funeral poverty.

The cost of funerals. 

Funerals, on average, are incredibly expensive. According to Social Ventures Australia, the average funeral cost equals around one tenth of the average Australian annual income. For those in lower income brackets, including those on Jobseeker, the cost of a funeral could take up as much as 40-45% of annual income.

The Australian Seniors Cost of Death report also found that 1 in 3 seniors experienced financial hardship when paying for a funeral, and nearly 69% of those people reported it took 6 months or longer to recover financially.

With funerals costing anywhere between $4,000 and $15,000 on average, it’s no wonder so many people struggle financially when struck with paying for a funeral. And whilst there is some financial support available from Centrelink, it’s only in certain circumstances.

Lack of transparency.

Unfortunately, the funeral industry thrives on lack of transparency, leaving families relying on the word of the funeral director that they’re getting a fair quote and price. 

When a loved one passes unexpectedly, families often feel the pressure to arrange a funeral at short notice. In the rush to book something quickly, the default choice is generally what has been done for generations. 

The industry, historically, has made its money by upselling grieving families on premium caskets, expensive catering packages, and other things they don’t necessarily need. What they don’t like to tell you is not having a coffin removes the single biggest expense for a funeral.

Families often feel shame in trying to keep funeral costs down, and are told the most respectful and dignified way to say goodbye and grieve is an elaborate coffin and service. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Read: Does holding a funeral help the grieving process?

The idea that a low-cost funeral option is disrespectful to the deceased only perpetuates funeral poverty, as it shames lower-income families to spend beyond their means. Budget and affordable options not only allow you to save thousands, but often also allow you to say goodbye in your own way.

Lack of knowledge about funeral options.

Low cost funeral options have been given a bad reputation in the funeral industry, that they don’t let us grieve properly or say goodbye.

If you’re reading this article, you probably know that Bare is different. We’re changing the ways funerals and direct cremation are perceived because everyone has the right to be cared for and dignified in death, and the means of disposal or celebration shouldn’t change that.

We understand we’re not for everyone, but we are there for those looking for a more affordable option, without the fuss and fanfare.

To help break the cycle of funeral poverty, we need to be more educated about the funeral options, such as the different costs between burials and cremations, the option of green burials, and understanding that you can choose the lowest cost option for a coffin if that’s what you want.

However, researching and comparing prices from different funeral homes and directors is incredibly difficult in the midst of our grief. 

Not taking responsibility for our own deaths.

Paying for a funeral in advance is not a new idea - after all, funeral insurance has been around for a long time. However, it has its limitations, mainly involving high costs and the fact you’re no longer covered the moment you miss a payment. 

Prepaid funerals are becoming a more popular option for preparing ahead. Anyone wanting to remove the financial burden of a funeral from their families and loved ones can pay ahead of time, locking in today’s prices and beating the rising cost of dying. 

Taking responsibility for our deaths, whether that’s by telling our families about our final wishes, prepaying for a funeral, or ensuring enough money is set aside for when the time comes not only protects our loved ones but also helps demystify and reduce fears and uncertainties around death. 

How do we overcome funeral poverty?

Overall, funeral poverty is a complex issue that is influenced by all of the factors above, plus many more. Personally, we can address these factors by planning ahead and opening up conversations about death and end-of-life planning with friends and family, which is easier said than done.

At Bare, we’re working on addressing the industry and societal barriers every day. From connecting with healthcare providers to bridge the gap between healthcare and deathcare, to providing more affordable funeral options for customers and changing the perception of direct cremations, we’re doing our bit to not only bring funerals into the 21st century, but also break down the barriers keeping funeral poverty rampant.

We’re all for transparency. If you’re interested in a Bare Prepaid Funeral, you can click the link below for an instant quote for your area, or give our incredible Prepaid team a call on 1800 202 901.