Death isn’t a topic people generally like to talk about. But the financial burden that is placed on the family of someone who passes away is often significant.
That’s why money expert Clark Howard has long recommended joining a non-profit memorial society to get access to a great deal on cremation or burial through group buying power.
Think about joining a memorial society like Costco for the afterlife! Because the memorial society is a bulk-buyer, you’re afforded access to ridiculously low prices on your final arrangements.
Let’s look at what joining a memorial society entails and exactly how much it can save your family so they don’t have to stress out about money when they’re already grieving.
Here’s How to Lower the Cost of Cremation or a Funeral
A typical low-cost cremation can start in the mid $2,000 range and top out at five figures, as evidenced by this price sheet obtained from a licensed funeral home in early 2018:
But unless you’re doing a truly direct cremation without any kind of ceremony or memorial at all, that mid-$2,000 base price can soon double. (And let’s face it: Not many people fit into the direct cremation category. Most folks will have mourners who will want to pay their respects at a formal service.)
So by the time you throw in the cost of a casket or other container, certified copies of the death certificate, a newspaper announcement, and maybe hiring the funeral home staff for the celebration at a local church and to lead traffic to the graveside inurnment service, you’re easily somewhere in the $4,000 range.
So how much money would joining a nonprofit memorial society really save you? Read on to find out…
How to Join a Non-Profit Memorial Society
Funny story — I had requested the paperwork to join my local memorial society back in 2007. That’s when I first heard money expert Clark Howard talk about these organizations.
Even though it wasn’t that long ago, you couldn’t even sign up online at that time — everything had to be done through the mail. Look closely at the pic below. The cost of a first-class postage stamp was still 44 cents!
So for years, I’ve had this envelope just sitting around my home. Oh, I’d look at it every couple of years — and then I’d do absolutely nothing with it.
Finally, after delaying for 11 years, I decided it was time to get back on the horse and join my local nonprofit memorial society once and for all.
The first step to joining is to go to Funerals.org and find your local affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA). Mine happens to be the Memorial Society of Georgia. (Note: The Memorial Society of Georgia is no longer taking new applications. The group created created the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Georgia which is a sortable database for consumers to review options and prices.)
Only a handful of states do not have a local FCA affiliate. If you live in one of these states, Funerals.org suggests you explore starting a group yourself or contact them for other options.
But back to my joining process. Sign-up was easy now that I could do it online and it only cost $35 — not per year or per month — but for a lifetime membership!
Your local affiliate may charge slightly more or less than that.
What Do You Get for Joining?
FCA affiliates have formal commitments with reputable licensed Funeral Directors to provide cremation or burial services for a pre-determined maximum cost. That cost is almost always lower than the cost to the general public.
When you join, you have to outline your disposition preferences upon death. Do you want direct cremation, direct cremation with memorial service, direct burial, direct burial with graveside service or do you want a complete funeral? Maybe you want to donate your body to science at a medical teaching facility?
What kind of rights will you want and will you want them with or without your body present? (You can also select ‘Unknown at this time.’)
You also have to pick a participating funeral home as part of the on-boarding process. Once you do that, your FCA affiliate reaches out to the Funeral Director so they can keep your preferences on file. That will allow them to provide prompt service with no price surprises when your time comes.
Be sure you inform your family about the pre-planning arrangements you’ve made so they’ll know who to get in touch with when you pass.
Your next of kin will make payment for any service at the time of your death, and they’ll do so according to those predetermined rates. No more money changes hands until that point in the future, which hopefully is a very, very long time from now!
So, How Much Will This Really Save You?
Here are the current going rates that FCA members get access to through my local affiliate.
How does that compare to the prices the general public would pay?
Well, that direct cremation price of $995 that you see is a whopping 63% cheaper than the direct cremation price of $2,695 listed in the price sheet at the beginning of this article.
And the $1,495 direct cremation with memorial service price for FCA members is 67% cheaper than the $4,570 price on the purchase agreement I showed you earlier.
Keep in mind that the pricing will likely change in the years to come, but you get a general idea. You can really save your family a bundle by pre-planning your funeral — well into the thousands of dollars.
Finally, let’s not forget about the heartache and discomfort you’ll also save them of having to go to a funeral home to make arrangements on their own at a time when they’re overwhelmed by grief at your passing.