The Memorial Business Journal recently reported on findings from the NFDA’s 2014 Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study.   Some of the findings may not come as much of a surprise to funeral directors, such as consumer demands are changing.  But, findings regarding how many respondents have made efforts to prearrange, and prepay, for funerals were surprising.  The article reported that only 19% of Study respondents had made prearrangements for themselves.  According to the article, prearrangement meant decisions and communications regarding the respondent’s final arrangement preferences.  Of those 19% who had participated in prearranging, only 26% had actually made some form of prepayment towards their final arrangement.  As one commentator to the article points out, only 5% of the Study respondents have purchased a preneed funeral contract.  (These statistics seem much lower than those reported by industry sources ten years ago.)

Of the individuals who have prearranged but not prepaid, the article reports the main reasons for not doing so include:

  • Estate or life insurance will cover the costs
  • Can’t afford to prepay
  • The funeral arrangement is not a priority
  • I don’t want a funeral.

Respondents gave similar reasons for not even attempting to prearrange their own funeral.

In an effort to address the need to prearrange, The Funeral and Memorialization Information Council have initiated the “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” campaign.  Members to the sponsoring organizations can access the FAMIC website for more information and documents.

As the campaign is successful in getting funeral directors and families engaged in the talk of their lifetime, the funeral home will still need to address consumer affordability.  On that issue, one commentator offered the observation of how the industry has steered the consumer to paying for the purchase price upfront.  He went on to suggest consumers need payment options.  We agree with his following comments questioning the mixed messages respondents gave concerning the value of price protections.  For too long, the industry has relied on “cost savings” to sell a preneed contract.  Even with an installment payment option, many older consumers cannot afford the required monthly payment.  Without a non-guaranteed contract option, many of these talks will still end in a direct cremation.

We encourage funeral directors to maintain the memberships in the FAMIC organizations, and to subscribe to the Memorial Business Journal.