Clark Howard

Should I Purchase a Prepaid Funeral Plan?

"In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes," Benjamin Franklin once said.

Neither of those certainties are popular topics. But since they’re inevitable — and hugely impactful from a financial standpoint — it’s smart to consider them.

Clark consistently advises people to plan for end-of-life events.

Don’t force your grieving family members to make financial decisions about your funeral service and burial, he says. That could easily put them in a position where they make a poor financial choice under duress.

And make sure you have a will in place so that it’s clear what should happen to your money, possessions and potentially your children.

But even if you accept your mortality to the point where you’re able to shop for your funeral in advance, there are still poor options to avoid.

Are Prepaid Funeral Plans a Good Idea?

What about prepaid funeral plans? Do they fit with Clark’s philosophy? And is their marketing legitimate?

That’s what a Clark listener recently asked.

Asked Henry in Wisconsin: "I am 33 years old. I heard an ad for a local funeral home where they were advertising funeral pre-planning. One of their selling points was that planning and paying for this service now would make the cost "inflation-proof."

"That sounds good, but after meeting with them, I found that the funeral process can cost upwards of $10,000. My life insurance agent recommends not doing this and allowing our life insurance to pay for the funeral costs when the time comes. What are your thoughts?"

The current life expectancy for American males is in the 70s. Although the number has fallen in recent years, the overall trend has been that people are living longer. So it wouldn't be a surprise for a man currently in his early 30s to live another 50+ years.

From that standpoint, avoiding five decades of inflation — even if the Fed manages to return annual inflation to 2% and maintain that every year — sounds wonderful.

But expecting a funeral business to survive and remain operational many decades from now is a scary proposition. Especially when you’re giving up five figures of hard-earned money.

“I am so opposed to these prepaid funeral plans,” Clark says. “The funeral industry is going through a lot of transition. The big buyers that bought up a lot of funeral homes, several have gotten into financial trouble.

“You don’t want a situation where you prepaid for a funeral and then they’re not there when the time comes. You’re dependent then on whatever state guarantee fund exists for funeral homes or cemeteries in your state. I don’t advise this at all.”

Planning For Your Funeral Now: Alternative Options

Instead of a prepaid funeral plan, find the funeral and memorial societies in your area via

“What I do advise instead, Henry, is look to see what funeral and memorial societies are available to you – these are nonprofits – where or near where you live in Wisconsin. And if you go to, you’ll be able to see what is available to you.

“These funeral and memorial societies use – excuse the term – but they use group-buying power to negotiate lower rates for funerals with burial, funerals with cremation, caskets, the whole shebang,” Clark says.

“And my goal is to have obviously a zero-cost memorial service. And people can just meet in a park somewhere.”

Clark plans to donate his body to science after his death. He'd love his body to be able to help others through research.

“But everybody approaches what they want at time of death in their own way,” Clark says.

"The one thing I would not do is not tell your loved ones what your wishes are. Because in the time of sadness and grief they may spend money and do things that aren't what you wanted. Or you may want something that's very specific and very elaborate. And you want your family to know so your wishes are carried out."

Final Thoughts

Clark wants you to think about your eventual funeral, even if it’s an uncomfortable topic.

But there are more reliable and cheaper ways to handle that than via a prepaid funeral plan. Check out your local nonprofit memorial societies, Clark recommends.

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