Our preneed provides peace of mind by freeing your family from the burdens of rising funeral costs and from making difficult decisions during their time of grief.

Since the inception of the transaction sixty years ago, that statement has defined preneed marketing. Even the AARP recently embrace the peace of mind concept. The inflationary protection that can be provided by preneed is the product of the guaranteed contract through which, funeral homes assumes the risks of investment returns and cost increases. But unless today’s consumer can afford to pay for that guaranteed preneed contract with a lump sum payment, the most popular form of preneed funding is forcing many families to choose cremation.

In 1988, insurance moved to the forefront of preneed funding by virtue of a tax ruling adverse to preneed trusts. While insurance was already a major player in the preneed industry, insurance companies had followed the lead of the early preneed pioneers by crafting a product to be used with the guaranteed contract. In the twenty years that followed the tax ruling, preneed insurers built sophisticated programs around their guaranteed contract policies. To win the funeral home’s business the insurance product must provide a commission (to pay preneed program expenses), an increasing death benefit (to offset the increase in costs to service the contract), preneed contract forms and regulatory reporting. The costs of these features are most apparent in the pricing of installment premiums.

Using costs discussed in our prior post, assume a husband and wife (age 67) want to purchase average funerals, opening and closing services and a grave marker. The total costs are approximately $20,000.00. That is a hefty sum for a couple on a fixed income.

The premium rates charged by preneed insurers vary due to factors such as the funeral home’s volume of business written, the commission rates sought by the funeral home, the age and health of the consumer, the term of installments, and the method of invoicing. For purposes of this post, we averaged two of the leading preneed insurer’s premium rates and assumed premium invoices would be mailed to the consumer. The attached chart reflects the monthly premiums for installments over 3 years, 5 years and 10 years. The chart also reflects the total cost of the premiums to the couple.

Most elderly consumers would be hard pressed to make monthly payments of $330, let alone $740. And if the couple elects the 10-year installment plan, the total cost of the original $20,000 package almost doubles. Not much of a cost savings.

Like most consumers, the preneed buyer will begin to ask what can I purchase with $80 (or even a $100) a month. The resulting death benefit will be about enough for two cremations.

If the industry wants to keep the traditional funeral affordable, more flexibility is needed in the funding of preneed. The price guarantee (and the purchase of insurance) may have to be deferred until the consumer (or funeral home) can afford it.