Till debt do us part

Posted in: Research Last updated: 01 Apr 2015

We’re encouraging families to discuss end of life expenses as funeral costs are set to soar to nearly £1billion by 2020 according to our latest report commissioned from the UK’s leading think-tank on demographic change and longevity.

‘The funeral time bomb’, produced by the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) reveals that after decades of the number of deaths in the UK falling, 2015 will mark a “tipping point” where this starts to reverse.

That’s because the oldest of the babyboomer generation are moving through their later years (1), and deaths are predicted to rise by 20%(2) .

This trend reversal has significant implications on current forecasts of how much funerals will cost in the future and highlights a growing need for families to broach the delicate subject of end of life expenses.

You can download the “The funeral time bomb” report here and it reveals:

  • Funeral costs are already soaring in the UK. The cost of a simple funeral increased  by 80% between 2004 and 2014
  • With deaths predicted to rise, increasing pressure on funeral services is likely to push prices even higher: ILC-UK predicts that funeral costs could reach or exceed £7,000 by 2020, with the cost of a simple funeral  projected to rise to £5,226 by 2020
  • Aggregate spending on funerals in the UK could rise to £3.7bn by 2020 (up from £2.8 bn. in 2014)
  • Funeral debt (where money has been borrowed to cover the cost of a funeral) in the UK could reach a quarter of a billion in less than 20 years

Don’t leave a legacy of debt

The report argues that there’s a growing need for families to come together and plan ahead for funeral expenses because an estimated 109,000 UK adults incurred funeral debt in 2013 with the average was £1,305 per person.

In total, funeral debts incurred during 2013 equated to £142m and the ILC-UK calculates that based on current trends, the total UK funeral debt could reach a quarter of a billion by the mid-2030s, an increase of 76%.

This could have a significant impact on families who are already under financial pressure.

At present, 14.5 million families would not be able to pay for a funeral at short notice unless the deceased had taken out some form of funeral provision, such as life cover, to help towards the costs.

"Our own research shows us that families are coming together more and more to help one another financially. This report reveals a need for families to look to the future too."

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC-UK, said:

“More than half of UK households have less than £3,000 in savings(3) and many will struggle to cover funeral costs. We all need to talk more about dying and ensure we are prepared for the inevitable. State support for funerals is complex and inadequate and without reforms will contribute to more people falling victim to funeral debt.”

Simon Markey, CEO of mutual OneFamily, which helps around one in 12 of all UK families to support one another financially, said:

“Our own research shows us that families are coming together more and more to help one another financially.  Nearly half of UK adults (48%) (4) who have provided family members with assistance have done so to help them to cover day to day expenses. This report reveals a need for families to look to the future too.

“While the subject of end of life expenses can be a very delicate one to discuss, the findings highlight how starting this conversation could help avoid leaving loved ones with unexpected debts they may find difficult to manage,” he continued.

More than one in four (22%) of those who have arranged a funeral in the past five years had to do it without financial provision having being made by the deceased (5).

Government Funeral Payments have not kept up with rises in funeral costs and in 2012 the average amount awarded covered just 37% of the costs of a simple funeral (6).

The report also argues that borrowing costs are unaffordable for many and that there is an urgent need for more support and greater pre-planning.

So, remember, it’s your funeral and don’t leave behind a legacy of debt.


1 The 20 years following World War II saw a population explosion when 16 million children were born between 1945 and 1965. Dubbed the ‘babyboomer’ generations, the youngest babyboomers will turn 50 in 2015 and the oldest 70, creating a demographic bubble set to have enormous economic implications for the country as they age.
2 ONS population projections and mortality rates and ILC-UK calculations
3 Family Resources Survey (2013) Department for Work and Pensions
4 OneFamily research conducted by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,218 GB adults, of which 1,502 have provided financial support to a family member. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th-21st January 2015. The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 
5 YouGov poll of 1,988 people who had arranged a funeral in the past five years for Royal London
6 Social Fund Report data (2012) and ILC-UK calculations