The Funeral Consultant: To Hire or Not to Hire?

Perhaps you've never heard of a funeral consultant, but even if you haven't you probably agree that professional planners are sanity savers. For anything more involved than eloping, for example, many people hire a wedding planner— a professional consultant whose sole job is to plan this expensive, once-in-a-lifetime event. Like a wedding planner, a funeral consultant is professionally engaged but not emotionally attached to the outcome of the event that she plans; she is ultimately responsible for educating you about all the options; she can help you make decisions when you get stuck; and she can help keep you within budget and make sure you don't forget anything. It makes sense to hire a consultant to plan your wedding; most of us simply don't have enough weddings to become good at planning them ourselves. The same can be said for a funeral, so why not hire a consultant for this, too?

A Look at the Range of Costs in One Community

In a recent survey of one community's funeral homes, a basic cremation started at $710 at one establishment and ran up to $3,820 at another. Direct burial ranged from $1,695 to $4,455. The same casket was $996 at one place, but $4,200 at another. Closing fees at some cemeteries varied $1,500 depending on the day of the week. There are 15 funeral homes and 13 major cemeteries in this particular community, so how would a family know how to choose among them? Simple: hire a funeral consultant.

How Funeral Consultants Can Help

Funeral consultants research and negotiate the prices for services and products in a given area. They can show you side-by-side comparisons of what a funeral will cost in your area. Part consumer advocate and part event planner, the funeral consultant can run through all your options at your dinner table, without the bias or conflict of interest of a salesperson trying to sell you something. Virtually any consultant can get you a mahogany casket for less than the funeral homes charge for pine. At an average fee of $500 and average savings of $3,500 or more, hiring a funeral consultant can be a bargain. But it isn't always just about money.

Many of us would prefer to discuss funeral arrangements at home, among family, perhaps over a cup of coffee. We'd like to be able to say, "That sounds a bit too expensive," without the condemning gaze of a salesperson making us feel insensitive or cheap. And some of us dislike having to don a suit or heels and sit in a small sales office, listening to strange terminology and making expensive decisions on the fly.

According to the Federated Funeral Directors of America, the average funeral home bill for 2008 (not including the cost of the cemetery plot and associated fees for the monument, etc.) was $8,336. The average "burial policy" is $5,000. Getting help from someone who knows the market just makes sense. For more information on hiring a funeral consultant, visit Funeral-Consulting.Com.

Author's Note: Funeral consultants are mature—often retirees—and love to help others. Incidentally, if that describes you, you might consider becoming a funeral consultant. A funeral consulting business costs as little as $1,000 to set up, including the cost of training and marketing materials. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme, although some people make a decent living at it, but is perfect for the retiree who would like to augment income a bit and make some new friends. For more information, visit Funeral-Consulting.Com.