News / USA

Americans Opt for Cheaper Funerals

Less expensive cremations are up while traditional burials are down

Multimedia

Audio
Nina Keck

The turn away from traditional funerals is taking a financial toll on the US granite and marble industry.
The turn away from traditional funerals is taking a financial toll on the US granite and marble industry.

For years, the U.S. funeral industry was considered recession proof but today, even the bereaved are scaling back and paying more attention to cost.

Many families are forgoing traditional burials for less expensive cremations. It's a change that's having a big impact on all aspects of the funeral industry.

Cutting costs

Lisa Alexandropoulos jokes that most of her friends are funeral directors. She owns a company that sells granite monuments in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her husband installs burial vaults - the concrete containers that surround a casket.

"Down our way, cremation is up 60 percent," she says. "He used to do 30 funerals a month, minimum. He is down now to about seven or eight a month. It has had a huge impact on us."

Funeral director Gary Stanley in Vermont, where costs for a full funeral start around $7,000 - more than a month's income for many middle-class American families.
Funeral director Gary Stanley in Vermont, where costs for a full funeral start around $7,000 - more than a month's income for many middle-class American families.

Cremation rates have been rising for years. In parts of the country, as many as 70 percent of Americans now choose it over a traditional burial. Alexandropolous says cremation has become even more popular since the economic downturn.

"You can do a direct cremation for $995, whereas a full burial - an average full burial cost is about $8500. So that's a huge difference money-wise."

Those costs can vary greatly, depending on the area of the country and the extra services requested.

Sales down

Randy Garner, spokesperson for the Vermont Funeral Directors Association, says in a small rural state like Vermont a full funeral and the added cemetery costs might start around $7,000 - more than a month's income for many middle-class American families.

"In general, I would say for a full funeral with casket, vault, visitation, all of that, versus having the body cremated immediately and just having a memorial service followed by a burial in a cemetery, something of that nature, it's probably 35 to 40 percent less cost," says Garner, comparing traditional funerals to cremation.

Garner says funeral directors in Vermont have seen revenues drop by 10 to 15 percent. With fewer people choosing traditional burials, casket and cemetery plot sales are down as are sales of headstones, like the ones crafted by Lisa Alexandropoulos. That's taking a toll on the U.S. granite and marble industry.

Granite Industries of Vermont employs 61 people and had sales last year around $12 million. Company president Jeff Martell says that's down from the year before.

"I personally travel to Ohio, Michigan and Western Pennsylvania and have just recently - in June - went on a two week trip out there and the retail monument dealers that I called on - I made probably 50 sales calls in those two weeks - were all down significant numbers 15 to 20 percent."

Time for reinvention

Besides shrinking demand, granite manufacturers are also facing increasing competition from China.  

Martell says he doesn't expect the funeral industry's fortunes to improve any time soon. Americans, he says, have become too mobile to be tied to one place - in life or in death.

"The traditional family had the grandfather in the town - say it was Barre, for instance. You know, the kids stayed in Barre and the grandkids stayed in Barre. That doesn't happen anymore," says Martell. "So there's not such a priority on visiting or going to the cemetery and saying, 'Oh, there's gramps,' and 'There's mom and dad and I want to go to that same cemetery.'"

Lisa Alexandropoulos agrees.

"I think the monument business and the funeral business is never going to be as it was again. I think people now have put their foot down. They don't want to spend that kind of money to put in the ground, they don't want to spend that kind of money just to have it out in the cemetery. And that's why all of us are going to have to reinvent ourselves."

The industry will need to adapt to a generation that has different ideas than their parents or grandparents about the dearly departed.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid