Clark Howard’s Important Advice on Funeral Planning

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Having a conversation about death can be difficult, but because you may have to plan the funeral of a loved one, it is important to have that talk, says money expert Clark Howard.

If you don’t know your loved one’s wishes and you don’t plan ahead, you could find yourself out of a lot of money during what could be one of the most vulnerable times of your life.

“You may be left being the one who has to figure it out. And so that’s where the funeral industry has always made a fortune: either playing on your guilt or your sadness. They eat you up with unbelievably expensive funerals.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this article, I’ll share some tips from Clark on how you can save money when planning a funeral.

The Funeral Industry Has Changed

The funeral industry has undergone a lot of what are called “roll-ups,” Clark says. That’s when national and international chains buy out smaller funeral homes.

With fewer independent funeral companies, you have less choice. But there are still ways to save money.  

The internet has given consumers new options when it comes to choosing funeral services including:

  • Funeralocity, which lets you compare funeral home prices;
  • Funerals.org, a Clark favorite that works with memorial societies to get reduced rates on funeral expenses.

How To Save on a Funeral

Here are some tips from Clark on how to save money on a funeral.

Join a Memorial Society

Clark recommends that you explore joining a memorial society, which is a nonprofit organization that provides information and resources on saving money on funeral costs. There is typically a nominal one-time fee to join and no annual dues. Here’s a list of memorial societies and similar organizations in the United States.

Among the benefits of joining a memorial society is that it uses group buying power to negotiate discounts on funeral expenses on your behalf.

(Call the memorial society in your state to inquire about its enrollment status, as not all states have memorial societies that are accepting new members.)

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Comparison Shop Caskets

One of the main expenses associated with a funeral is the casket, which can cost several thousands of dollars. But you don’t have to buy a casket from the funeral home.

“You don’t have to play by their rules. You don’t have to go through the emotional manipulation of a funeral home,” Clark says.

Federal law allows you to buy a casket anywhere you want. You can find them through independent vendors, at warehouse stores and even on the internet. Here’s how to save money on a casket.

Consider Cremation

Compared to a casket burial, cremation can help you keep a lot of money in your pocket — especially if you shop around.

“There are now very competitive offers in the marketplace, particularly in midsize and large metropolitan areas, for cremation, so you can drive that cost down, down, down,” he says.

The median cost in 2021 of a direct cremation in the United States was $2,550, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, although the plethora of choices makes price comparisons difficult.

Direct cremation typically doesn’t include a memorial service or amenities provided by a funeral home. The prices increase as you add services that more closely resemble a full-service casket funeral.

Be Cautious About Buying Burial Plots

Cremation is now more popular than burial in the United States, according to the Cremation Association of North America.

And that’s a major reason Clark strongly encourages people to talk with their loved ones about their funeral wishes. If not, families could end up buying sections of burial plots that never get used.

“These are conversations of philosophy and desires that should be discussed,” he says.

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Clark’s Funeral Plan

Over 40 years ago, Clark joined his state memorial society.

“My deal is that I don’t want my wife to have to spend any money on me at the time of my death. And so I want to donate my body to medicine.”

Clark says there are a number of places where you can sign up to donate your body, which medical institutions will use for whatever they need. There is no cost to the donor.

Memorial societies have information on how to do this. Some places where you can donate your body to science include:

Final Thought

Clark says talking to your loved ones about funeral planning may be a hard conversation, but it’s a necessary one. And he encourages people who have adult children to start that conversation.

“Please tell your kids what you want: you want burial; you want cremation; you want a fancy-dancy casket; you want to be buried in a pine box; you want to be cremated, and you don’t want any box at all. Whatever it is you want, tell them.”

More Resources From Clark.com:

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