Funerals: It’s Not Just About Being Emotionally Prepared

Information verified correct on October 27th, 2016

In Australia, a typical funeral can cost between $4,000 to $15,000 (Money Smart, 2013). Is it seriously that expensive?

Then again, I’m only in my 20s... I have health insurance, so I thought it should be enough. Plenty of time to think about life insurance and all that stuff, right? When my grandfather passed away right in the middle of our family’s Christmas festivities, I finally had a serious thought on what it means to have a back-up plan on your life. My grandfather’s death came as a shock to me, even though I was well aware that he was in the later stages of his life. He had been ill for a while, but I had always naively thought, ‘He’ll be ‘right’. In my mind, he had always been a fighter, so he could have lived to 100 if he wanted to. He had just celebrated his 81st birthday three days before he passed away.

The traditional funeral arrangement

My grandfather was of Chinese descent, so it was only natural that both my dad and uncle wanted his funeral ceremony to be held in the way of a Chinese tradition.

Chinese Funeral Custom

Traditional Chinese Custom Funeral Ceremony (Shrine)

Photo credit: Berkshire Fine Arts
A Chinese traditional funeral ceremony usually lasts for 49 days, with the first seven being the most significant. While my grandfather's ceremony was humble, just the way he would’ve wanted it, all the costs add up.

Funeral Expenses Breakdown

The Breakdown of Funeral Costs

  • Coffin: that my father had selected was from a budget range. The more expensive coffins can cost up to $20,000.
  • Funeral home venue hire: for a total of 5 days (for the wake).
  • Funeral home services: include funeral director’s fees, embalming and dressing.
  • Other costs: include burial clothing, monk, celebrant and ritual items.
  • Columbarium: is a niche wall that is constructed to store cremated remains (usually preserved in a decorative urn), as the final resting place.

Why did the wake take five days to host? Based on Feng Shui reasons, when a member of a Chinese family dies, it is important to consult a monk for advice on the best day and hour when one can be buried/cremated. My grandfather died on a Tuesday and as advised by the monk, he was cremated on a Sunday, as it was the best day to send him off. The five day wake also allowed our extended families and friends living in different parts of the country to come and pay their respects.

Do you have life insurance?

“Mum, did grandpa have life insurance?” I asked, a few days after the funeral. “Umm... Well, no. You know, insurance was expensive back in those days,” she replied. I realised that all of my grandfather’s funeral expenses had been paid by my family out of their own pockets. “How about you and dad?” “We do. You never know what can happen these days,” she said. “I mean, it’s still expensive, but at least I am certain that you won’t have to worry about all the financial stuff when we’re gone.” Both my parents work harder than anyone else I know and everything earned, they saved. Family means the world to them, so they always make sure that they take care of the family the best way that they can.


While both my father and uncle are financially stable and were able to pay for my grandfather’s funeral in its entirety, I thought to myself, ‘What if it had been the other way and they could not afford all of those expenses?’ What if it had been my parents? If they didn’t have life insurance, I would be in no position to cover $15,000++ needed for a funeral. Buying life insurance may sound like a waste of money against something that seems so far off. It is human nature to think of leaving the unpleasant things in life until last and some people may even think that life insurance is a scam. But you and I can learn something very important from my parents. For them, life insurance is their final act of love. When something does not go according to plan, they have the assurance that I will be protected financially, even if they are no longer around to take care of me. You spend most of your lifetime caring for the people that meant something to you, loving them the best you know how and making sure they have everything that they need. But remember that if you got sick, or are no longer around, the financial matters become ultimately real to those you care for. They will be the ones who will have to pick up the pieces and put it back together. Ignorance is not always bliss and no one lives forever. By all means, if you could guarantee only the best things in life with no physical or financial harm to ever happen to your family, wouldn’t you do it in a heartbeat? Life throws us a curveball everyday. When we leave this place, not only we are leaving our legacy, we are entrusting the responsibility of our passing onto our loved ones. And if this story could remind you of that, it costs money to arrange.

Dale Maroney on preparing for a funeral in Australia

Dale Maroney from Walter Carter Funerals shares her insight into funeral planning in Australia and why it is important to be prepared, even for your own.

About Walter Carter Funerals Walter Carter Funerals in Sydney's eastern suburb of Bondi Junction is a family-owned and run funeral service provider. Established in 1887, it is one of the oldest and independent funeral home in Australia that continues to provide service and care of the highest quality - helping people grow through the experience of loss, rather than be diminished by it. Walter Carter Funerals is a boutique funeral home, with experienced staff that are committed to provide unparalleled care and support for the eastern suburbs community and families. Available 24/7, Walter Carter will ensure everything is taken care of - whether the choice of service is traditional or contemporary, or burial or cremation. It understands the diverse cultures and faiths in the community and make every effort to accommodate all customs and traditions. It also offers grief and bereavement follow up and support to assist families following the death of their loved one. Walter Carter Funerals 302 Oxford Street Bondi Junction NSW 2022 Ph. (02) 9389 3499

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