Guarantees in Life and Death!

By Shawn Salamon

As most of us are well aware, talking about death is difficult. Even more difficult, talking about our own death. The old joke of “the only things in life that are guaranteed are death and taxes” is really no joke at all. If you receive a paycheck, or own a business, you know very well that taxes are guaranteed, and we never forget Tax Day, unlike our wedding anniversary. And, over course, we know that the “other thing” is guaranteed, but no one really knows when “it” will happen, and no one likes to talk about it. So I will talk about the things that are not guaranteed.

I’m not guaranteed to drop my new iPhone, but I have phone insurance.

I’m not guaranteed to have a car issue on the side of the road, but I have AAA insurance.

I’m not guaranteed to have a fender bender, but I have car insurance.

I’m not guaranteed to have a water damage, but I have flood insurance.

I’m not guaranteed to miss my flight, but I have travel insurance.

I’m not guaranteed to wake up tomorrow, but I have life insurance.

Thank goodness I have those insurances, because I have dropped my iPhone, I popped a tire, I totaled a car, I’ve dealt with a soggy situation, I almost missed a flight once, and so far, I wake up every day, and barring any accidents, I will continue do so, but if I didn’t my family would be covered financially.

On the other side of the coin, if I didn’t wake up, my family also knows what to do. I am a funeral director after all. My funeral arrangements are simple, yet dignified. More traditional than some may think, but not “stuffy”. Visitation, service, funeral procession, final disposition, and then a repast. My wife wants something different. We don’t know if that will happen tomorrow, or a few years from now, or a few decades from now, but we have “death insurance”. We pre-planned our funerals, and we have also pre-paid for our funerals as well. And they’ve been paid since our 20s.

When the topic comes up, no one believes that we paid for ours funerals. I’ve heard, “Why would you do that?”…”You could use that money for (fill in the blank)”…..”I can’t afford it”….”Well, that’s what I have life insurance for”. Well, as a funeral director, I’ve sat with families that handed me a folder with “Mom’s directions”, I’ve picked up the phone on been told “My dad died, and I think he said he prepaid for his funeral with you guys”. I have sat with elderly couples that planned their funerals, and have been there when they did pass away. The main thing that always stood out to me that those that prepared made things so much easier on the family members. The main thing I learned from those situation was that the bill was always paid in full, and most times, there was “excess funds” that went back to the family or estate.

When asked, every funeral home must give you their General Price List, and that price list changes from time to time, and it’s rarity that prices ever go down. So one of the benefits of “death insurance” is to guarantee, or “lock in”, the funeral home charges. If the funeral you want costs $8000 (excluding costs outside of the funeral home such as grave purchase/opening, church services, obituaries, etc) and you prepay pay for it, the interest gained over time will most likely cover future inflation. In simplest terms, you pre-pay $8000 in 2018, and the funeral home’s services aren’t needed for 80 years, that account will accrue interest. In 2098, your funeral costs $20000, this account covers that.

There are many reasons people pre plan and/or pre fund their funerals. In some situations, families may need to “spend down” their funds as they or their loved ones prepare to go onto Medicaid. Those funds must be put into an irrevocable account that is earmarked for their funeral expenses. In other cases, people choose payments plan options, like my wife and I. Some people have the ability to write a single check, most people do not.

As a funeral director, I encourage people to have a conversation. The National Funeral Director Association asks you to “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” with your loved ones, and as a NFDA’s 2017 Pursuit of Excellence Award winner, Halpin-Bitecola Brookdale Funeral Home encourages you to “Come Visit” to pick up some materials, and if you would like, to have a conversation about planning ahead. We are always here to answer questions that you may have and discuss what options are best for you or your loved ones. We encourage you to call, email, or come see the funeral home to sit down for a no pressure, no obligation conversation where we can certainly answer any questions that you may have.

Halpin-Bitecola Brookdale Funeral Home is a family owned and operated funeral home located at 1284 Broad St, Bloomfield, NJ 07003. Please follow us on Facebook for future scheduled events and seminars. Our manager, Daniel Bitecola III, CPC, CFSP, ( is a Certified Pre Need Counselor and Certified Funeral Service Professional, whose expertise in Pre Need is focused on pre planning and pre funding through the New Jersey State Funeral Trust, CHOICES. I, Shawn E. Salamon, ( am the Pre Need Director at Halpin-Bitecola Brookdale Funeral Home, where I am a licensed funeral director and earn a commission as an licensed insurance agent through Forethought Life Insurance Company.