Funeral planning is a serious consumer issue, yet Americans persist in NOT planning ahead for their eventual mortality. It’s even worse than I thought.
For the fifth consecutive year, the National Funeral Directors Association’s (NFDA) annual Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study indicates that consumers acknowledge the importance of preplanning their own funeral, but fail to do so in practice. This year’s findings reveal that 62.5 percent of consumers felt it was very important to communicate their funeral plans and wishes to family members prior to their own death, yet only 21.4 percent had done so.
Even though nearly two-thirds of Americans acknowledge the importance of prearrangements, respondents cited several factors as preventing them from planning, namely that preplanning is not a priority, that they have not thought about it, or that prepaying is too costly.
Consumers are Not Shopping for their Funeral Homes
Key findings from the NFDA 2017 Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study indicate that end-of-life services are becoming increasingly personal, with families wanting new, unique ways to honor and celebrate the lives of loved ones.
Despite this, most are not inquiring at multiple funeral homes to compare costs and services offered. The percentage of respondents who contacted more than one funeral home was only 18.9 percent, and of those who visited/called more than one funeral home, 52.3 percent did so to compare prices.
Every funeral home offers unique services and pricing structure. To help families plan a meaningful tribute to their loved one, NFDA recommends calling – or better yet, visiting – several funeral homes to find one with licensed funeral directors who understand their emotional needs and will be sensitive to their budget.
According to NFDA’s survey, the way families choose to honor and celebrate loved ones continues to evolve.
- End-of-Life Services Outside of the Funeral Home
Indicating a shift away from the popularity of the funeral home setting, almost half of respondents have attended a funeral at a non-traditional location, such as a cemetery, an outdoor setting, a home, or a similar meaningful location that represents the life and interests of the deceased.
- Importance of Religious Components at All-Time Low
The percent of respondents who feel it is very important to have religion incorporated into a funeral service has decreased from 49.5 percent in 2012 to 39.5 percent in 2017, an all-time low. This mirrors a broader trend of Americans not identifying with a religion. As a result, families are turning to non-clergy celebrants, a specially trained officiant of an end-of-life service, to conduct ceremonies.
- Green Funerals Gaining Popularity
Just over half of respondents (53.8 percent) said they would be interested in exploring green memorialization options to reduce the environmental impact of end-of-life rituals. Green services can include use of biodegradable caskets, a formaldehyde-free embalming process, recycled paper products and more.
- Therapy Dogs Guide Funerals from Start to Finish
To bring comfort to families, both while planning a funeral and during the service itself, funeral homes are offering certified therapy dogs; 34.5 percent of respondents said they would be extremely interested or very interested in having a therapy dog present during a memorial or funeral service.
- Families Planning Memorial Services When Choosing Cremation
With the rate of cremation surpassing that of burial, more consumers want to have a memorial service when they choose cremation (40.4 percent in 2017 vs. 35.1 percent in 2015). Consumers are increasingly aware that they can view a prepared but not embalmed body as part of a service before cremation (47.8 percent in 2017 vs. 39.7 percent in 2015).
The Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study is conducted annually to measure consumer perceptions of funeral services. Invitations are emailed to a consumer panel consisting of Americans age 40 and older, with 1,013 individuals completing the study in 2017.
About National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA):
NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving 19,700 individual members who represent more than 10,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please contact 800-228-6332 or visit www.nfda.org.