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July 23, 2021

Recession causing slump in body claims, rise in home burials

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

I know, I know. I’m sick of it, too.

Everyday it’s something new with this economy. A few months ago, sex was on the decline. As the summer started, no kids could find jobs. Just yesterday, fraud was on the rise. Yada, yada, yada.

But some stories on how the recession is beating us down are just too surreal to pass up. And this one may take the cake.

It turns out, the downturn isn’t content with irritating our lives only in the short-term – it wants to kick us when we’re dead, too.

According to the L.A. Times, the number of bodies going unclaimed by families who can’t afford to bury their loved ones is shooting through the roof.

At the Los Angeles county coroner’s office, 36% more cremations were done at the taxpayers’ expense in the last fiscal year. At the L.A. county morgue, cremations are up 25% in the first half of this year alone.

The Times even reports that local crematoriums have had to turn away bodies from the coroner because they simply can’t handle the newfound workload.

“It’s a pretty dramatic increase,” Lt. David Smith, an L.A. coroner’s investigator, told the newspaper. “The families just tell us flat-out they don’t have the money to do a funeral.”

Bummed out yet? Try this one on for size:

The financial load has gotten so bad for grieving families, many are taking to home burials now as a last resort to pay their respects.

A home funeral has now become its own niche industry in the States, says the New York Times, and advocates suggest the number of them – “where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home” – has skyrocketed in the last five years.

The savings are undeniable, I guess. The average funeral costs around what, say, six … seven grand? The Times profile a family from New Hampshire who took care of an entire home funeral for 250 bucks.

I suppose we can turn this into a whole debate on why funerals are so expensive and an issue of ‘Do we really need 80 floral arrangements?’ and all that, but the cold reality here is that – because of a slumping economy – people have literally resorted to burying grandpa in their own backyards.

And if that isn’t included in Webster’s updated definition of “recession” after this whole thing blows over, I don’t know what should.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...