Spending on send-off increases 9.1% in a year
- Funeral cost increases to £3,693 - 29 times higher than overall UK inflation
- People are spending 9.1% more on the send-off, even though 99% admit not really knowing their loved ones’ send-off wishes
- Covering the £2,449 funeral cost shortfall causes 17% ‘notable financial concerns’
SunLife has today published the findings of its annual Cost of Dying Report – showing that while the overall cost of dying has fallen by 3.6% to £8,126, the cost of a basic funeral has risen by 2.9% in a year to £3,693, 29 times higher than UK average inflation 1 and a staggering 92.3% rise since SunLife’s first survey in 2004.
Perhaps the most surprising finding is a sharp rise in spending on the ‘send-off’ (memorial, flowers, funeral notices, limousines, the wake and so on), rising by 9.1% in a year. SunLife’s research also reveals that despite spending £2,000 on the ‘send-off’ on average, a staggering 99% of people admit to not knowing all of the deceased’s send-off wishes.
SunLife managing director Dean Lamble comments: “Our research shows that just 1% of us really know what our loved ones wishes are for their funeral send-off - what flowers, what reading, what music – in fact, almost a third of people are organising funerals without even knowing whether their loved one wanted a burial or cremation.
“And when you consider that the overall cost of dying has fallen by £300 and spending on the send-off has increased by almost 10%, many people may be spending this ‘extra cash’ on the ‘wrong’ things.”
More people making provision for their funeral
While most people are not making their wishes for their funeral clear, they are at least making financial provision to pay for it; this year, 59% made specific provisions to pay for their funeral before they died, up from 57% last year.
What’s more, 84% had made sufficient provision to cover the entire cost and over a quarter (27%) had put a prepaid funeral plan in place – a rise on 2014, when less than a quarter (24%) had done so.
However, those whose loved ones had either not made any financial provisions to cover their funeral, or not enough to cover all costs, had to find an average of £2,449 to cover the shortfall, up 3.3% on last year’s figure. This means the shortfall has risen more sharply than the cost of the funerals themselves (2.9%).
One in six (17%) who had to cover the entire cost themselves said that finding the money had caused them ‘notable financial concerns’. Of this group, half had to borrow money - either from friends or relatives (21%), the bank or a loan provider (8%) or via a credit card (21%) - while one in seven (14%) had to sell belongings.
Let’s talk about death
Just 1% of those who had organised a funeral in the past four years fully understood their loved ones’ send-off wishes, with almost a third (31%) not even knowing if their loved one wanted to be buried or cremated.
Seven out of ten (70%) said they didn’t know whether the deceased would want their ashes scattered, buried or disposed of, only one in seven knew which coffin to choose and only a third knew the deceased’s preferred cemetery or burial ground.
And when it came to the memorial, less than half (47%) knew whether to hold a religious or non-religious service and only a quarter (26%) knew the music and readings the deceased would have chosen.
“At SunLife, we believe it’s important to share your funeral wishes.,” added Lamble. “People find it hard to talk about this sensitive subject, so to help, we’ve now set up a free service on our website called My Perfect Send-Off. It means anyone – they don’t have to be a customer – can create a smart document that shows all of their send-off wishes, which they can print off and keep with their Will, or pass on to a loved one.”
Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition says there needs to be a shift in the way we think about death:“We need to change the nation’s approach to dying and planning ahead, so that all of us become better at making our end of life wishes known and asking our loved ones about theirs. Talking more openly about dying and planning ahead, including through discussing your funeral wishes, can help us to get our wishes met and spare our loved ones from having to deal with the consequences if we haven’t got our affairs in order.”
She added: “We’re delighted that SunLife have produced their new My Perfect Send-Off planner, and hope that people find it a really useful resource.
SunLife’s report has revealed, however, that organising a funeral had prompted almost two thirds (64%) to start thinking about their own plans.
Of those, 70% had started to make some arrangements; 37% had written their Will, 17% had made a record of their wishes in writing and 46% had spoken to someone about their preferences.
Almost a third (30%), however, admitted they had done ‘nothing yet’; with one in six (16%) admitting the reason was because they either don’t feel comfortable talking about death or don’t want to think about it.
Big regional differences
There are significant variations in the cost of dying at a regional level. The most expensive place to die is London where the average cost is now a staggering £10,664; this is 31% higher than the UK average of £8,126. Meanwhile, the least expensive place to die is the North East where the average cost is £5,960, 26.7% below the national average.
The amount spent on discretionary costs or the ‘send-off’ also varies significantly between regions. London is the most expensive region to pay for a send-off, with loved ones paying £2,881 on average. At the other end of the spectrum is Wales, where the average is £1,405, which is £1,476 less than in London and 30% less than the UK average of £2,000.
Lamble concludes: “While it’s encouraging to see a slight fall in the overall cost of dying, as well as an increase in the number of people making financial provisions such as funeral plans, it is clear from our report that many of us are still very uncomfortable talking about death.
“This is understandable, but means that in many cases those left to organise (and often pay for) a funeral are doing so without knowing what their loved one actually wanted.
“This is even more unsettling when you consider the amount spent on the send-off has risen to £2,000 and the average shortfall has risen by 3.3% to £2,449.
“It’s really important to talk about and plan for our funeral. As our report has shown, if we don’t make plans we put a significant financial burden on the people we leave behind and an emotional one too.”
Watch SunLife’s video showing a series of interview clips with couples asked about their other half’s funeral wishes:
About the research
The annual ‘Cost of Dying’ report has been one of the most significant pieces of ongoing research in its field for the last nine years. The report was commissioned by SunLife and was established using two surveys:
- An online survey of 1,507 UK adults who were responsible for planning a funeral and administering an estate with the last four years
- 100 telephone interviews of Funeral Directors from across the ten UK regions
The following terms relate to the following costs:
Total cost of dying – Cost of Dying 2015 is £8,126 and is made up of:
- £3,693 (45.4%) - The average cost of a basic funeral including the fees for the funeral director, the cremation or burial, the doctor, and the minister or celebrant
- £2,000 (24.6%) - The average amount spent on the additional extras like the memorial, death and funeral notices, flowers, order sheets, additional limousines, the venue and catering for the wake
- £2,433 (29.9%) - The average amount spent on hiring a professional, e.g. a solicitor, to administer the estate
Cost of a funeral – the average of the cost of burial (£4,104) and the cost of cremation (£3,282).
Cremation pricing criteria – the sum of the costs for professional services, clergy or officiates fees, doctors’ fees for certification, cost of the cremation.
Burial pricing criteria – the sum of the costs for professional services, clergy or officiates fees, cost of the burial.