Funeral directors across the state are seeing a transition in the funeral industry as cremation is becoming more socially acceptable and more Tennesseans opt for incineration as opposed to burial. While the changing attitude toward cremation is welcome news for owners of crematoriums, the news is troubling for many funeral directors, some of whom are seeing their profit margin diminish.
“Twenty years ago approximately five percent of our clientele chose cremation for their final disposition,” said Larry Click of Click Funeral Homes. “In 2014, roughly 40 percent of our business was cremation.”
According to Click, the changing trend in final disposition is due to several factors including simple economics. According to Click, a traditional burial can cost on average of upwards of $6,000. A simple cremation can cost as little as $2,000.
“Economics is a factor,” said Bob Batson executive director of the Tennessee Funeral Directors’ Association. “Since 2008, the economy has been terrible. During the financial crisis of 2008, the materials used to make caskets went 18 percent in one year which further encouraged people to consider cremation.”
The nation’s transient society is another factor impacting the cost of funerals. As an increasing number of Americans move from state-to-state for career or other purposes, more are opting for cremation as it allows the deceased to be returned to their native soil.
“We are dealing with a different generation now. Today we are dealing with the baby boomers. The hippies of the ‘60s and ‘70s are now in their 60s and 70s,” said Click. “More and more Americans are moving around and choose to be returned home in the event of their death. For example, a California man who moves to Tennessee and dies unexpectedly may choose cremation to save expenses relating to transporting the remains back to California.”
According to Batson, the number of cremations across the state has increased proportionately. In 2014, 25 percent of Tennesseans statewide chose cremation for final disposition. In some areas, the average number of people that choose cremation averages 40 percent. Conversely, in 1994, only 12 percent chose cremation.
The average cost for a traditional burial across the state is $6,000-$7,000. The average cost for cremation is $1,200 to $7,000 clearly indicating economics is a factor. The cost of a cremation depends on several variables. If a client were to elect to have a viewing before the cremation, the family can rent a casket for the viewing and hold a chapel service which adds to the cost. Nonetheless, the cost of cremation is still more economical than traditional burial.
According to Batson, cremation is more commonly utilized in metropolitan areas as opposed to rural areas where burial is the more common choice of final disposition. Crossville routinely records the most cremations of any metro area across the state. The city is a largely retirement community of which many residents are members of the Cremation Society. In 2014, 50 percent of the funerals in Crossville were cremation.
As more Americans become more environmentally conscious, another burial option that has become increasingly common is green burials. This form of burial involves no embalming and a simple casket which allows the deceased to be gradually returned to the soil. The average cost of a green burial is as little as $2,000. Without embalming the body is preserved in a refrigeration unit when not lying in wake.