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August 6th, 2009
07:44 AM ET

Beating the high cost of funerals

It's a topic that intrigued us: how are people coping with funeral costs in a tough economy?

Watch Kyra Phillips' interview with Josh Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Association and learn about the big mark up on casket costs and why embalming is actually optional.

What do you think? Leave your comments here.

To find more tips from the Funeral Consumers Association click here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Scott Stodden

    What embalming is optional, so what do funeral homes do if you choose not to embalm a body? It is extremley outrageous what funeral homes across the country charge when yourself or a loved dies. Its a problem when you cant afford to bury your family members and loved ones, I know people who have paid as much as $10,000 for funeral costs and services.

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,IL)

    August 6, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  2. Sandy Hughes

    You are really paying for their niceness. My husband already had a plot with a head stone at the funeral home location. We had a viewing/service there and then walked to the lot next to the building on the back lot to bury him. His body was imbalmed. Just this bit cost us $8,683.00. I can see why they were so nice and so giving while they have their hands in your pocket taking your money while you are grieving. Shame on them.

    Sandy
    Guntersville, AL

    August 6, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  3. Funeral Director

    One thing people need to understand is that funeral homes are businesses. Funeral directors need to to be paid a salary like anyone else so they can support their families. These guys give up weekends holidays, nights, all to serve and help their community, and trust me the compensation is not what you all think out their. As a profession we have evolved from the needs of our communities, and we will continue to do so or be left behind. As far as the planning goes.... fail to plan plan on failing.

    I look forward to more and more people doing their own funeral work . It will only help the public appreciate the the job we do.

    August 7, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  4. Bill Shields

    Joshua, as a funeral director for more than 20 years, I couldn' t agree more with the {do whats right for you} comment. However, I completely disagree with your broad brush painted on us all. First, for all the Canadian people reading...be cautious, our laws differ in many circumstances. Secondly, yes, you should be sure you are dealing with a reputable honest company....there are several "big" players who are pushing the envelope, shall we say,...not completely forthright and in my opinion, lost sight of the value of a funeral, the value and purpose of our industry and are strictly profit driven. There are still many funeral homes who are serving people well, and fairly. We are a business, and yes need to be profitable, but done fairly. I find it amusing when people are shocked at the profit made on funeral services...yet those same people purchase many items daily that far excedeed the profit margin on funeral products with far less effort and expenses than what is invloved in a funeral, and they do it without even a second thought. There are many funeal homes like the family run business I am employed in that have for many decades served there community well and fairly....many dedicated and professional people serving their neighbours and friends with respect, dignity and fairness.. Kyra...I am sorry to say, this was a poor journalism report...no attempt to see the other side, to get the other point of view or prospective...this is the kind of reporting that causes the myths and misdirection. To both Joshua and Kyra...you may want to study your facts more carefully. Although you do not have to pre pay your services, in many situations it is a practical, safe and realistic way of preparing for the certainty of death. Here in Canada, in our province, it is a safe and wonderful way to prepare and protect those you love and care for. I agree...people need to celebrate the life of a loved one in a way that represents that person, its not about a dollar value, its about a life lived and celebrated...find the right funeral home to help you do that in a fair and professional manner.. Thank you, Bill Shields, Lindsay, ON, Canada...A Proud Licensed Funeral Director since 1987.

    August 7, 2009 at 10:10 am |
  5. R. Barnes

    Here we go again. Firstly, unless the laws in the USA are much different than in Canada, You can NOT bury someone in the back yard. EVER!
    Secondly, this report has some very serious flaws and a complete lack of accurate information, focusing on the extreme cases.
    Embalming is RARELY a must legally, however if some family chooses to have a funeral and viewable remains it's likely a good idea. The funeral business is like every other, people that we deal with expect the best facilities, lots of space and all the bells and whistles, So we provide it, because that's what they want. Yes, it costs money just like everything else. Remember that you don't have to spend a fortune and a good funeral director will help you do just that. Stay away from many of the corporate funeral providers, they are much more interested in the bottom line than they are your family. It would be nice if reports like this were actually accurate, this one is far from it.

    August 7, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  6. Funeral Director

    I would really like someone to watch and be involved in the embalming process before they make comments as to why it costs what it does. (Just to note some embalming can take up to 6 hours!) Also, no, someone does not have to be embalmed, but to see your loved one after they have been dead for more then 24 hours is not something I would recommend. Embalming prevents discoloring, swolleness as a result of gas produced in the body and odor that is a result of decaying flesh. I hate to be so abrupt in that explanation but clearly people do not understand the necessity of embalming when having an open casket service. Sandy, although you may believe you were paying for the funeral directors "niceness" I assure you they worked extremely hard for that funeral no matter how close the cemetery was. There is behind the scene work that needs to be done and each funeral take as much as 50 hours of the funeral directors time from start to finish. Also, many of the cost associated with funerals are fixed and not going directly to the funeral home. There is a registration fees, clergy fees, flowers fees, coach rental fees, cemetery fees, vault fees....the list can go on.....
    This CNN report is upsetting in the fact that Kyra Phillips is making it out that funeral homes are an institution working to "rip people off". I would urge her to do a report on the life of a funeral director to find out the reality of this profession. Funeral directors are on call 24/7, meaning if a death occurs in the middle of the night, we have to get up and do a removal. These are things people do not realize about this profession. This is a business that is under appreciated and it upset me to read blogs and hear reports that funeral directors/funeral homes are scammers trying to "make a buck off someones death" because in reality, we are not making a huge "buck" and we honestly go into the profession hoping to make a difficult time for a family easier. And yes, like any business or event planner etc, there is a fee for this service. This society has no issue paying huge dollars for a wedding planner or any event planner yet when it comes to funeral it is expected that we do it for free?

    August 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Walter Lang

    The heartbreaking story by Rick Sanchez of the 20 year old soldier killed in Afganistan was excellent. Anyone who saw it I'm sure had a lump in their throat. Mrs. Lightfoot is a courages woman and if I had her address would send her a note of condolence. Keep up the good work Rick.

    Walter

    August 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  8. Carol

    Cremation and an "Urn" are the way to go!

    August 7, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  9. Larry

    Funeral Director, Kyra Phillips, a terrific reporter, never said funeral homes are institutions trying to rip people off. In fact she was unfamiliar with the cost and consumer options, including cost of casket, options on embalming as am I.
    I have never met the woman but you must have been watching a different channel.
    I have buried a parent and we had the traditional expensive funeral but I never for one minute thought the funeral was ripping us off.
    If the fella interviewed was giving false information please enlighten us all.
    I was suspcious of his claim that you can bury someone on your own property.

    August 8, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Evie

    After health care reform is passed then the funeral & funeral home needs to go through some reform!

    August 8, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  11. Funeral Director

    The person being interviewed was defiantly giving you false information. First off when he said you can do a funeral for $250 that only includes legal paper work....that does not include cremation, transfer cost to and from place of death to crematorium etc. Also, legal documentation must be filled out CORECTLY this can be a frustrating process for someone who is unfamiliar with the forms. Trust me I have had families attempt to do so only to return a day later.

    No, you can not legally bury someone in your yard! You can bury/spread ashes, however, this too is illegal.

    Also, I never commented on Kyra Phillips reporting abilities but to provide a well informed report it is up to the reporter to look at all aspects. She should have included an interview with a funeral director to discuss this issue from a different perspective. And yes she did insinuate that funeral homes are ripping people off when she said..."When you lose someone you love the last thing you want to think about is all this stuff and people really take advantage of you." Implying that funeral directors take advantage of people!!

    Again, the general public is uninformed when it comes to the funeral profession and would greatly benefit from an ACCURATE report!

    August 10, 2009 at 11:06 am |

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