It sounds like a morbid question, but it’s actually something many prudent Americans ponder as they reach middle age — and it’s also a question that has never been easy to answer.
According to a new report from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), there’s a shocking lack of transparency in the funeral home industry which has made it nearly impossible for people to save enough money for their own death.
Obviously, the major hurdle with financing one’s funeral hinges on the fact that you typically aren’t able to schedule your own death and therefore can’t create a savings plan for the costs of a funeral. Another problem, however, is the fact that funeral homes have purposely covered up their prices; depending on where you die, your funeral could cost around $4,000 or it could cost over $13,000.
The report was released on Monday, Oct. 19 and it involved a survey of 150 funeral homes located in 10 different regions across the country. As TIME reported, only a quarter of the funeral homes surveyed (38 out of 150) disclosed their prices on their websites, and 24 businesses (16%) that failed to disclose their prices fully on their website refused to provide pricing information even when asked via phone and email.
The actual cost of a funeral doesn’t just differ from city to city, as Vocativ noted; data from the recent report shows that prices can vary between funeral homes, in the same city, by over 200%.
When an individual is unable to save up for his or her funeral costs, the burden necessarily falls on grieving relatives and close friends who wish to honor their loved one for the last time — and it often seems inappropriate to deny that person a respectable burial simply because of the cost.
Saving up for a funeral can be a major source of anxiety for people who don’t have a steady stream of fixed income each month, and even more so when the price of dying is so hard to figure out. Many funeral home experts recommend avoiding a traditional casket burial altogether as the best option; a standard 400-cubic inch companion urn is typically the most affordable option for a couple to be buried together.
FCA and CFA are submitting their data to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, according to a press release, urging government officials to change an outdated policy which does not require funeral homes to disclose their prices online or over the phone.