Cremation — already the “New Tradition”


It’s no secret that as a percentage of dispositions, cremation continues to grow.  This article from Forbes entitled “Cremation is gaining popularity as funeral costs rise”  gives that indication and their thoughts on why that is so.


Forbes states in the article that over the last 15 years the United States cremation rate has doubled to about 57% and is expected to grow to about 80% by 2040.  While there is a lot of reasons that the cremation rate has went up, Forbes theorizes that the main reason is the comparatively low cost of the option.


Here’s what the article says about cost — “Affordability has driven the surge of cremations over the last 50 years. About 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, according to data from Lending Club, and household debt hit a record high in 2022. So when faced with an emergency expense like a death, the lowest-priced option often prevails.”


Wisconsin funeral director Jeff Kleczka is quoted in the article and he adds, “More families, regardless of socio-economic standing, age or demographics, are choosing cremation.  There can be significant cost savings when burial products no longer factor into the final funeral bill”.


To further drive home the author’s point a consumer with a financially based cremation opinion was quoted saying, “My decision was cremation because it made financial sense.  I can’t see myself spending that much money for one day when what matters are the memories that are going to live on.”


Funeral Director Daily take:  So, while a lot of funeral directors will deny that cost is the major component of the rise in cremation, my take is that it is the number one reason people look, or have looked to cremation in the past, as a viable alternative to earth burial.  I also think that once cremation is tried by a family they are “satisfied” with the results which results in moving their family’s century-old burial tradition to a new tradition.


I just heard from a family last week in which there are six siblings.  Their dad died about 15 years ago and we had a traditional funeral/burial for his service.  One of the children talked to me last week about mom’s pre-arrangement and mentioned that “partly” because of cost, mom was choosing to prearrange a cremation with memorial service.  My guess is that it was more than “partly” because of cost.


And, I’m guessing that this service will open the door for cremation to be the norm for the six children and their spouses going forward. . . .that’s a lot of caskets not being sold in the future.


However, the Forbes articles lists other reasons why cremation “has a modern appeal”.  Here they are:

  • Environmental impact
  • Religious relaxation
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

I think those are all valid reasons and if you think about it they are reasons that consumers choose all kinds of products and services.  The world just has a more environmental conscious than we used to, certainly religious fervor has waned, and it seems that everybody wants flexibility and mobility whether it is a work from home concept or a family’s decision on when and where memorial services should be.


So, the reasons for more and more cremation should not surprise anybody. . . when we cannot show, or the consumer cannot see, the “value proposition” of the funeral process they won’t pay for it out of tradition anymore.  It’s pretty much that simple. . . . it’s not any different than seeing a value of paying for a bundle of 200 cable TV channels when you only watch 10 of them.  And, those 10 you can get for a fraction of the cost with a certain streaming platform.


A lot of traditions are falling by the wayside. . .whether it is the tradition of traditional earth burial or the tradition of bundled cable TV being replaced by internet streaming.


Quite frankly, in my opinion, we may have already reached the point where “Cremation with services is the new tradition”.  And, it will be for some time.  However, if funeral directors cannot serve the public with price points for services that are acceptable we will move to “Direct Cremation” being the new tradition in the not so distant future.


In Great Britain, according to the new Sun Life Cost of Dying Report, 24% of “all cremations” are now “Direct Cremations” which makes “Direct Cremations” 18% of all dispositions in Great Britain behind “Cremations (with Service)” at 57% ” and “Burials” at 25%.


But, who knows over time, alkaline hydrolysis, green funerals, and natural organic reduction will chip into that tradition as well and 100 years from now one of those methods may be “the new tradition”.


I guess the old proverb is more than likely a correct statement. . . . “The only constant over time is change”.




Related —  I had to include the following graphic from The Hustle in today’s edition of Funeral Director Daily just to show how things change. . .even when we don’t think they are.  The Ford F-150 Truck has been America’s best-selling car/truck for 41 years.  As a matter of fact, The Hustle states that Ford sells one F-150 every 49 seconds. But, the Ford F-150 is not the same pickup it was when it first received that honor.


Here’s a graphic that shows that the F-150 has moved more from a pickup work truck that seated 2 or 3 people to less of a work truck and more of a transportation vehicle that seats 4 or 5.  Here’s the graphic I found so interesting.



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1 Comment

  1. Gary Cowman on February 2, 2023 at 10:56 pm

    Not only the cost factor of cremation versus ground burial but the costs that cemeteries charge is sometimes 50%. as high as a traditional funeral. Opening and closing costs alone will break the bank. I foresee more people chosing cremation and scattering of ashes in the near future. caskets companies, hearse manufacturers will close and it would not surprise me to see the funeral home as we know it now become a store front in a shopping center. with that said the price of cremation will slowly go up to make up for the loss.

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