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Category Life Insurance

Don’t Let Funeral Costs Land You In Debt

26 May 2023 Metropolitan

South Africa is the world’s 4th most expensive country for dying, with 13% of the annual average wage used to pay for funeral costs. For many people who do not have funeral cover, burying a loved one is unaffordable, and they are forced to use savings that were intended for education or retirement, while others go into debt to pay for funerals.

But even with funeral cover in place, funerals can end up costing more than expected or what is covered by your funeral plan. Funerals are by nature an opportunity for friends and family to gather to honour the deceased. But in some settings, this could include large communities who attend and need to be catered for, which can add significant costs. “While our funeral plans are designed to enable South Africans to be celebrated with a funeral as unique as them, without a budget and careful planning, costs can escalate and cause extreme financial hardship for those left behind,” says Yaaseen Albertyn, Product Management Head at Metropolitan.

The company’s funeral offering is flexible and affordable and enables the plan owner to customize their plan according to their funeral wishes and what they can afford. Given the evolution of traditional family structures, cover is provided for up to three life partners, children, parents and up to nine extended family members. All funeral plans include a payment protection benefit, the ability to skip premiums in tough financial times, Metropolitan’s CashBack benefit and a repatriation benefit. “Depending on the wishes of the plan holder, and more importantly affordability, add-on benefits can be selected, such as a memorial benefit to pay for a tombstone or a monthly income to cover expenses for a limited period,” says Albertyn.

Understand all possible funeral costs

The starting point is to understand all the possible costs associated with holding a funeral. This includes pre-funeral costs, such as repatriation, livestock, clothes, undertaker costs, coffin and cemetery costs. Funeral costs on the day include the service venue, flowers, catering, refreshment venue, funeral service, programmes, music and chairs, while post-funeral costs can include a cleansing and unveiling ceremony, and a tombstone.

Once you know what kind of funeral you want and the associated costs, you can then select the appropriate cover amount. “Don’t be tempted to choose a cover level you can’t afford. Rather manage your expectations on the kind of funeral you can afford that won’t get your loved ones into debt,” advises Albertyn.

Using funeral cover wisely

When a loved one passes away, it’s up to the family to arrange the funeral in line with the available funds. “Drawing up a budget is critical and getting consensus from family members is important to ensure that costs don’t get out of control,” says Albertyn. He advises focusing on what is important and non-negotiable and saving on other items, such as extravagant flower arrangements and expensive catering. “If you’re expecting a large gathering, you may have to relook the refreshments you provide or call on your close friends and your community for support.”

Why people overspend on funerals

Lack of pre-planning is one of the biggest reasons for overspending when it comes to funeral costs. When a loved one dies, you are not necessarily in the right frame of mind to make smart budget decisions. There is no time to compare prices and the various services available and it’s hard to know what is and isn’t necessary. “When families are grieving, they can be tempted to outsource to service providers who they cannot afford or make hasty spending decisions based on emotion,” cautions Albertyn. He advises getting a trusted friend or family member to help you with getting quotes so you can compare prices before making costly decisions.

While no one likes talking about funerals, they are an important and often expensive part of life. “You can avoid financial hardship for your loved ones and still have the dignified send-off you want by taking out the appropriate level of funeral cover. It’s then up to family members to manage the funeral payout responsibly to avoid overspending,” says Albertyn.

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