After fuel poverty, is funeral poverty next?

With funeral expenses now costing an average of £7,622*, there has been an increase in demand for ‘paupers’ burials’, prompting recent media coverage asking ‘Can you afford to die?’ So, what’s going on?

None of us like to talk about death – particularly about our own. That’s just human nature. But recent stories in the press have highlighted why it’s something we really need to start talking about – particularly if we don’t want to leave a legacy of funeral expenses for our loved ones.

How much does a funeral cost?

This year, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people will struggle to pay their funeral costs, according to research from the University of Bath. This is not surprising when you discover that the average cost of a funeral and its associated expenses is now a staggering £7,622. In fact, over the last decade, the cost of a typical funeral has risen by a whopping 80%, a trend that looks set to continue.

If you can’t pay, can’t you get financial help?

Although there are grants known as Social Fund Funeral Payments available to assist those on low incomes with the cost of bereavement, Bath University’s report questions whether these are actually widely available and effective.

The reality could mean having to opt for a ‘Public Health Funeral’ for a loved one. These are set up by local authorities when family members are not prepared to organise or pay for a funeral. Requests for these are on the rise – but does this indicate that ‘paupers’ burials’ are losing their stigma, or is it the case that more and more people simply have no other alternative?

Why is this happening?

The report’s lead author, Dr Kate Woodthorpe, explains: “People are living longer, which requires larger incomes and pension pots to ensure these extra years can be afforded. Whether or not these will stretch to cover funeral costs is unclear. At the same time, the younger generations have less ready cash to call on, so they can’t necessarily be relied on to pick up the bill either.”

So what’s the answer?

Essentially, to stop avoiding the issue and start talking about it. Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre – UK says: “As a society, we don’t talk enough about dying. But nor do public policy makers. We must find a way to open a debate about dying early and ensure that we and our families are as prepared as we possibly can be.”

Why is Foresters talking about this?

This story has caught our eye at Foresters because we’ve been supporting families for 180 years and helping them to plan for their future at all stages of life – including this one. We have a policy for over 50s to help people make financial provision for loved ones in the event of their death, which can assist with funeral expenses.

While none of us really like to think about this, there is peace of mind to be gained from knowing that you have put your affairs in order and your legacy to your loved ones won’t be a big funeral bill that they’ll struggle to pay. Then you can tell them that you’ve got it all sorted and can put it out of your mind!

*Source: The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research, January 2014.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

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