The high cost of dying

By Staff Writer
By Nicolette Dirk
 
With the rising cost of petrol, food and electricity we have all anticipated the high cost of living. But when it comes to the cost of dying, how many of us have actually made sufficient  provision for our final resting place?

The average funeral can cost between R5 500 to R30  000 depending on how you want to be buried. But could funeral and life insurance policies alleviate these costs? And what can you do to reduce the costs?
 
What costs should you anticipate?
 
Durban-based Ncanda Funeral Home assists with the burial process from the removal of the body to getting your loved one to their final resting place. They also offer policies that start from as little as R70 that will cover the cost of a classic coffin, removal of the body, storage and a hearse.
 
But without such a policy you should be prepared to pay from R5 500 for a basic funeral service to R30 000 for a more lavish burial.
 
According to Ncanda cremations aren’t significantly cheaper. Even a basic coffin will cost you between R800 and R1 000. And where you save on the burial site, you would still have to fork out for the cost of the cremation of R2,500.
 
The National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) in Massachusetts conducted  a *study on the cost of a funeral in South Africa and researchers found that, in addition to expenses for a coffin, traditional burial blankets, and (often) hiring a tent for the funeral, immediate family must pay to entertain mourners.
 
The study also found that in addition, animals are slaughtered to honor the dead in some cultures. 
“Cattle sold for approximately R2,000 a head during this period [2008].

With median per capita income among Africans (Blacks) approximately  R400 a month, the cow represents more than a third of a year’s income for half the African population,” says Anne Case, Alexander Stewart 1886 professor of economics and public affairs director, research program in development studies at Princeton University.
 
What are the cheaper alternatives?
 
The study further showed that one mechanism that has evolved in South Africa to help individuals save for funerals are savings clubs, stokvels or accounts that pay out upon death. 
 
These include membership in a burial society, or the purchase of a funeral policy with a funeral parlor or an insurance company. Money paid into a funeral policy can only be drawn upon at death.
 
Sonja smith, owner of Sonja Smith Funeral Group, says the cheapest type of funeral at her company will be a private unattended cremation where there is no memorial service.
 
"The deceased is collected from the place of death, cremated privately and the ashes (mortal remains) returned to the family. In this instance, there is no service, no hearse, no staff making funeral arrangements/conducting a funeral service, so the overheads are much lower," says Smith.

An affordable funeral policy is also a good option to help alleviate the costs. Old Mutual’s Standard Funeral Plan Range, one of their most affordable funeral policies, starts from R50 a month.

You can choose a plan that covers you alone or one that covers your family as well. The Individual Funeral Plan cover s you for up to R20 000 and the Family Funeral Plan covers you, your husband/wife and your dependent children for up to R20 000.
 
Lisette Lombard, communications consultant says cover and premiums increase at 5% annually to help keep pace with inflation.
 
“We do have a cheaper version than the Standard Funeral Plan Range called the Funeral Care Plan, which is roughly similar but without the annual 5% increases but with no cash back benefit,” says Lombard.
 
Justmoney says:
 
Not all funeral polices offer the same benefits. Find out what type of benefits you get with a cheaper policy. Sometimes a cheap option does not provide a cash-back option. And this money is usually needed for the costs outside the funeral.
 
Unless you are buying the cheapest coffin on the market, do not expect a cremation to save you more than a traditional burial ritual.
 
* © 2008 by Anne Case, Anu Garrib, Alicia Menendez, and Analia Olgiati

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