What working in a funeral home taught me about life insurance


Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson

Blog author Holly Johnson

Published|4 min read

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While my husband and I work in digital media now, we used to live completely different lives. From our mid-20s to early 30s, we worked side by side in a funeral home.

After watching his brother pass away unexpectedly as a teenager, my husband Greg felt drawn to funeral service. Eventually, his desire to help people brought him back to school to earn a mortuary degree. I wound up working with him, using my administrative and writing skills to file death certificates, write obituaries and handle the piles of paperwork that come with death.

Overall, we loved the work. We felt good helping others get through the logistics of saying goodbye so they could focus on the emotional side of their loss. What exactly did we do at the funeral home? To sum things up, we did a lot.

Sometimes my husband helped families plan a cremation with a small ceremony. Other times, he planned multiple visitations or “wakes,” a large funeral ceremony with procession and formal burial. From there, we helped file paperwork for a military headstone and death certificates.

We would also help families file claims with their life insurance company. Unfortunately, the times where families were left without life insurance left the biggest impression. Out of all the lessons I absorbed during my time in a funeral home, here’s what I remember most.

1. With life insurance, families struggle to cover funeral expenses

According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average price tag for a funeral (with vault) worked out to $8,508 in 2014. That’s a lot of cash for a family to come up with – especially with little notice.

Unfortunately, many deaths happen tragically and unexpectedly, catching everyone by surprise. Individuals who die without life insurance often leave their family in the lurch when it comes to financing a funeral. Many times, they wind up asking their church for help, getting a loan from a family member or starting a GoFundMe account to cover funeral expenses.

You can put the death benefit of any life insurance policy toward funeral expenses, but there's also final expense insurance for people who don't need income replacement. Speaking of which ...

2. Without life insurance, many families don’t know how they’ll get by

While covering funeral expenses is a huge problem families face right away, it’s only a temporary hurdle. The biggest test comes when they realize part of their income is gone and they have to figure out how to get by.

Imagine being a parent of young kids and finding out you’re suddenly on your own. Without life insurance as income replacement, many families wind up relying on family members for help or living in poverty. (Not sure how much life insurance you need? Policygenius can help and provide free life insurance quotes here.]

3. Term life insurance is cheap

During my career in funeral service, we processed term life insurance paperwork for families still paying monthly premiums on their policies. It was shocking to find out how affordable these policies were and how many people in their 30s and 40s were paying less than $50 per month for ones worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While I found the low price point shocking, affordable term life insurance also left me wondering why so many people never purchased a policy. If the price of protecting your family is less than a night out with friends each month, why wouldn’t you?

4. Families who find out their loved one has life insurance are thankful & relieved

While we met plenty of families struggling to come to terms with their loved one’s death and the fact they left behind no savings or life insurance, we also experienced the other side of the spectrum. I remember so many times a family uncovered a life insurance policy only to express deep gratitude and relief.

Imagine how you would feel to find out your spouse died, then learn they left behind $500,000 or more in coverage to pay for final expenses and help care for the kids. Having that money and security buys your family time to grieve over a lost loved one without having to worry over bills.

5. Unexpected death happens – more often than you think

It may not happen to someone you know very often, but the effects of early death are far-reaching and limitless.

Over the years, we buried young fathers who died in auto or motorcycle accidents, cancer victims, mothers who died during childbirth and new retirees. Early death can come out of nowhere and, in the blink of an eye, change everything you know.

Life insurance can’t stop death, but it can limit the devastation it causes. By providing income replacement and covering end-of-life expenses, life insurance can step in to reduce the burden placed on families grieving a loss.

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