Funeral industry tries to hold the line as costs soar

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With the cost of everything on the rise as inflation hits the United States, the funeral industry, like all others, faces higher costs.

But the data indicates the industry is trying to absorb some of the financial hardship its customers are facing at a time when they need it most.

But insiders warn that funeral homes may not be able to keep rates low any longer.

The funeral industry is trying to keep funeral prices at bay as inflation soars. (iStock/iStock)

While the Labor Department’s latest consumer price index shows inflation rose 8.6% annually in May, the cost of funeral services rose only 2.7%.

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Compare that to the agency’s 2017 report showing the price of funerals had risen nearly twice the rate of inflation for all consumer goods in the previous three decades.

Industry leaders told FOX Business they are doing everything in their power to absorb the costs, but it’s a tall order. That means consumers, already squeezed by price hikes for staples, groceries and gasoline, could face higher funeral bills.

“Funeral home owners, managers and advisors are going to do what they can to maintain the bottom line. But, at the same time, at some point, that has to change,” said George Kelder, CEO of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association. says FOX Business.

Kelder, who has been a licensed funeral director for more than 40 years, said funeral homes are generally “mindful of keeping their fees within the standards of what their local markets can afford as well as any influence from competitive pressure.” and re-evaluate prices and make adjustments. to their offerings every one to two years.

However, due to financial pressures for “deliveries, supplies, fuel, etc., prices now change every three to six months,” he said.

funeral and inflation

Data from the Labor Department shows that the price of funeral expenses has risen at a rate of inflation much lower than the average consumer price index. (iStock/iStock)

Even though it’s a benevolent industry, Kelder said, vendors still run businesses.

“We are also coming out of 2 and a half intense years of [a] pandemic, so we cannot simply ignore anything that financially affects our ability to provide these goods and services while jeopardizing our ability to survive in today’s rapidly changing marketplace,” he added.

Yet even with the added pressures, some funeral homes are “sitting until they absolutely have to adjust prices.”

Jennifer Cooper Finnerty, director of community relations for Rose Family Funeral Home & Cremation in Simi Valley, Calif., told FOX Business that the company tries “not to pass the higher costs” onto families, but acknowledged that it had to raise some prices to manage its own skyrocketing costs.

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“Crematorium operators have increased their rates. Casket supply companies have increased their rates. Even paper costs for things like memorial programs and prayer cards have increased,” she said. “And, of course, the fuel…increasing fuel costs have certainly had an impact.”

Kelder warned that “if we don’t see stock markets rising and fuel prices falling and interest rates not adjusting and inflation not getting to where it needs to be, every facet of life is about to change, including funeral arrangements”.

Due to the current economic environment, families are already strapped for cash. The added financial burden of a funeral is an expense that many households cannot afford. The median price for a funeral last year, including a burial and casket, was $7,848, according to the latest data from the National Funeral Directors Association.

Kelder said he has never seen so many people contact his office asking for financial assistance to pay for a funeral.

funeral expenses

Funeral industry insiders say they have seen a surge in requests for financial assistance from customers. (iStock/iStock)

“It’s a phenomenon I’ve never, ever seen before,” he said. “These are individuals who just got by paying their rent, if they even did, or just got by paying their utilities, and now they’re dead.”

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Still, Finnerty said, families are managing the costs the same way they always have, “by pre-arranging and pre-paying for their funerals, creating a GoFundMe to help cover costs, and involving multiple family members/friends to help financially.”

Megan Henney of FOX Business contributed to this report.

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