Why being laid to rest is so expensive

Cost is almost as big of an influence on a person’s choice of burial as are personal beliefs, according to a survey. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/davidford)

It’s not a pleasant conversation, but have you thought about what you want done with your body when you die?

Funerals themselves are expensive, and so is the cost of burial.

“The casket, the actual grave site, the grave liner, the grave stone. All of those things are generally expensive, and they add up a lot,” said Kendra Madsen at TermLife2Go, a life insurance company.

A traditional burial is more than twice as expensive as a cremation. The most significant cost of cremation is the cost of the urn the family chooses for the ashes.

TermLife2Go said cost is almost as big of an influence on a person’s choice of burial as are personal beliefs. But its survey surprisingly puts religious reasons near the bottom of the list of what influences a person’s choice.

“Especially considering that religion historically has had such a large influence on funeral customs and how people are typically honored after they die, it was surprising to see religious influence so far down,” Madsen said.

Funeral costs are not all fixed, but families don’t treat choosing funeral arrangements like they treat shopping for a new TV or a car.

“A lot of the times, funeral costs are so high because we, as humans, have a difficult time shopping around and price comparing when we’re grieving. So a lot of the time, we just accept whatever first option comes up,” Madsen said.

More younger respondents, ages 18 to 45, said their personal beliefs primarily influence their burial decisions, while older respondents were more heavily influenced by cost.

And 35% of younger respondents preferred cremation, compared to 49% of those over 45 who chose cremation.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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