Dave Says: Funerals, Don’t Pre-Pay, Pre-Plan

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Posted: Feb 12, 2018 10:28 AM
Dave Says: Funerals, Don’t Pre-Pay, Pre-Plan

Dear Dave,

My grandmother passed away a week ago. She was 98, and I know both she and my grandfather had pre-paid for their funerals in 2004. However, there were outstanding costs of $1,500 with the funeral services we had to pay out of pocket, because she had outlived the insurance policy attached to the pre-payment plan. I know you say it’s always better to pre-plan, not pre-pay, for a funeral. Can you refresh my understanding of this?

Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,

Let’s use a round figure, and say the cost of a funeral is $10,000. What would $10,000 grow to 25 years from now if it were invested in a good mutual fund? Now, juxtapose that number with the increase in the cost of a funeral over that time. The average inflation rate of consumer-purchased items is around four percent. So, the cost of funerals, on average, has risen about four percent a year. By comparison, you could’ve invested that money, and it would’ve grown at 10 or 12 percent in a good mutual fund.

Now understand, I’m not knocking folks who are in the funeral business. But lots of businesses that provide these services realize more margin in selling pre-paid policies than they do in caskets. In other words, they don’t make as much money selling the casket as they do selling a pre-paid policy on the casket.

Do you understand my reasoning? If we knew the exact date she pre-paid, and how much she pre-paid, that figure invested in a good mutual fund would be a whole lot more than the cost of a reasonable funeral. It’s the same principle behind the reason I advise folks to not pre-pay college, or just about anything else, that’s likely far into the future. The money you could’ve made on the investment is a lot more than the value of pre-paying. Pre-planning, on the other hand, is a great idea for many things — including funerals. 

I’m truly sorry for your loss, Rebecca. God bless you all.   

—Dave