Planning for the inevitable

By Lebohang Pita
9/28/2020 | 6 min read

South Africa is the fourth most expensive country to die in. This is according to a study conducted by a life insurance provider, SunLife, which listed the most expensive countries in which to die when “compared with the respective cost of living and earnings”.

Despite this, for many people, funeral insurance is still not a high priority. Looking after your family in tough times is very important because you can never tell what the future holds for us. Therefore it is vitally important to protect your family financially to avoid getting into debt in times of emergencies like now as the whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

As the late former USA politician Benjamin Franklin once said, “there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes”.

Expensive to die in South Africa

South Africa has officially been revealed as the fourth most expensive country to die in. This research by SunLife suggests that, on average, it costs R26 000 to host a funeral in South Africa.

R26 000 is a lot of money in a country with such a high level of unemployment and poverty.

SunLife’s Justin Cole notes that “there are a range of factors influencing the costs of funerals such as cultural expectations, the overall cost of living and contributions of different states towards funeral costs and we wanted to see how this impacted families across the globe”.

In South Africa, we are a rainbow nation. We have many different cultures and belief systems which lead to most believing that their loved ones deserve a dignified funeral and therefore racking up a higher funeral bill. believes that the main contributor to the high cost of funerals in South Africa is “the local tendency to spend more on the dead”.

The research by SunLife has revealed that irrespective of where you are in the world, preparing for death is imperative, and thinking about your funeral plans can ensure that your family and friends are financially prepared when the sun sets on your life.

Why it’s important to plan for your death

Busi Sikhosana of insurance provider, Hollard, says planning for death is vital because not everyone has the money to cover the costs of a funeral and even if you have money, it may not be enough to cover all the expenses associated with a funeral.

“Even if you have money saved in your name when you pass away, it can take your family months to access that money because of the legalities related to your estate. This can place an unreasonable financial burden on your family. However, having a funeral plan means you can plan the funeral and pay for it immediately,” added Sikhosana.

How can I plan for my death?

It is a scary thought to think about the day you depart this world. Like Benjamin Franklin stated, death is certain. So planning for it is imperative so that when the day comes your family buries you with dignity. But In a country with such a high unemployment rate, how can one plan for the inevitable?

Burial Societies

Nonyameko Qashani dresses in her orange t-shirt, black skirt, and black beret every first Sunday of every month to attend the Thusanang Helping Together Burial Club meeting, where each member pays the R200 monthly subscription.

She says she finds comfort in the knowledge that her R200 monthly subscription guarantees her a payout of R15 000 in the event of her death and R10 000 should one of her dependents pass away.

The primary reason for the existence of burial societies is to provide for the cost of a funeral upon the death of a member or their dependent.

Prevalent in African communities, burial societies emerged as a result of the rising costs of providing a dignified funeral experienced by migrant workers during the mining and industrial revolution in the 19th century in South Africa.

“The exorbitant burial costs made it impossible for individual households to afford all the costs associated with funerals – coffin, transport, and catering. The costs were particularly unbearable for migrant workers who passed on in the urban areas but had to be buried in the rural areas,” said academics Lindiwe Ngcobo and Joseph Chisasa.

According to Khosi Mdakane vice-president of Thusanang Helping Together Burial Club, the members of a burial society agree on the payment of the joining fee and a monthly subscription, a waiting period before becoming a full member and the amount to be paid upon death of a member or dependent.

The members of the burial society would agree on the constitution and then appoint the executive committee. The executive committee opens a bank account in the name of the burial society and records are kept to avoid mismanagement of funds, added Mdakane.

Qashani adds that the spirit of ubuntu expressed by most burial societies motivated her to join.

“It also provides a helping hand benefit in which the grieving family is relieved of household and other duties in the week leading up to the funeral or on the day of the funeral.”

Funeral Cover policy

A funeral cover is another effective way to ensure that your family and those dependent on you don’t have to carry the financial burden for your funeral. Most funeral policies allow you to add other family members by paying a certain amount of money towards the policy for all your dependents every month.

According to Sikhosana, in the event of death, the advantage of having a funeral policy is immediate cash on hand. “In the event of your death or that of a dependent, the policy will pay out a lump sum for the departed to be buried with dignity.”

Besides the immediate cash on hand, other funeral policies like the one offered by JES Funeral Service goes the extra mile in ensuring that their clients receive the best burial. “It provides for the costs of things like airtime to make arrangements with family members, flowers, tent, tables and chairs, groceries for the funeral event, and all other expenses related to the funeral.”

What can give us peace of mind?

Sikhosana expressed that to know that should you or any of your dependents die, it will give you peace of mind knowing that you will be laid to rest in dignity.

“The greatest feeling is the knowledge that in the event of your death, your loved ones will receive money to use for your funeral arrangements.”

“Often, many of us do not realise that during times of bereavement we can end up paying exorbitant amounts of money towards a funeral – resulting in debt for the surviving members of the family. Planning for the inevitable is vital because saying goodbye to a loved one in the most dignified manner is a real source of comfort for those grieving,” concluded Sikhosana.

By Lebohang PitaTags:
  • burial
  • death
  • Family
  • funeral cover
  • Funeral plan
  • Funeral policy
  • Protection


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