2005-10-27 / Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior


Can you help us with some questions about cremation? My husband and I are both in our late 70s and have been thinking about seeing one of our local undertakers to make our funeral arrangements but want to first find out about cremation. We understand that cremation cost less than a standard burial does, but does it also cost us our option to have a funeral or a memorial?

Not Dead Yet?

Dear Not:

Cremation can actually offer you more options than a standard funeral cemetery burial can at a price that can save you thousands. Here’s what you should know.

Cremation has been around for thousands of years dating all the way back to the early Stone Age, around 3,000 B.C. Over the past 30 years, the cremation rate in the United States has increased dramatically jumping from 6 percent in 1975 to more than 30 percent today, and by 2025 that number is expected to reach nearly 43 percent. In England and Japan, where cemetery space is at a premium, the cremation rate is over 70 and 90 percent.

Growing Trend

There are various reasons for the increased rate in cremation in the U.S. (environmentally friendly, it uses less land, personal preference), but the biggest reason is money. Cremation costs about a third - depending on products and services - of what an average funeral and cemetery burial would bring, which is around $6,500. You should also know that almost all religions accept the practice of cremation except Jewish Orthodox, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox and a few fundamentalist Christian faiths.

More Options

Many people think that cremation limits your funeral options but it actually gives you more choices. With cremation, you can still have a funeral or memorial service of your choice, either with the body before cremation or without the body after cremation. And, after the cremation process there are options on what to do with the remains, which include: scattering, being kept by the family, placed in a mausoleum or columbarium niche, or buried in a cemetery plot or on your own property depending on local ordinances. Personal memorials can also vary, but could include an urn, plaque, headstone, a simple marker or nothing at all.

Savvy Tip:

If you’re having a viewing or a funeral service before cremation and want a casket, ask the funeral home if you can rent one for a small fee.


To assure your final wishes are honored and to prevent your loved ones from having to make decisions and arrangements at the time of your death, you should choose a cremation provider (most funeral homes provide cremation services) and prearrange your cremation and funeral or memorial service. The pre-arrangements should also be noted in your will and advance directive (if you have one) and be sure to tell your family and clergy. Also note that preplanning doesn’t have to include prepaying, so be very careful before you put any money down. To help you locate a cremation provider in your area, look in your local yellow pages under “cremation” or “funeral” or visit www.cremation.com

Savvy Resource

Funeral Consumers Alliance: a non-profit consumer protection organization that provides free publications on cremation and funeral planning, and can answer all your cremation questions. They can also put you in touch with your area memorial society who offers consumer information and referrals to local cremation providers. Call 1-800-765-0107 or visit www.funerals.org.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070 or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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