Thanksgivng Day, 2015

This year especially, I am in need of this Thanksgiving Day! I am struggling this Thanksgiving season to recognize the many blessings for which I am so grateful. As with many others, I find myself reeling from the unconscionable violence that is being  perpetrated throughout the world and the seemingly insane responses from some. Following the numerous terrorist attacks around the world, some of our leaders (and those who want to be our leaders) are adding to the chaos by tapping into our baser instincts. Bigotry and xenophobia, fueling our fears, are distracting us from the unspeakable terrorism happening in our streets on a daily basis; the slaughter of innocent children, whether by gun violence or from the hunger caused by the mass impoverishment of so many American families. In addition to the usual blessings in my life, such as my health, my family and friends, and the fact that I can help so many people who are grieving the death of a loved one, this year I have even more for which I am thankful. This Thanksgiving I am blessed to not be a refugee fleeing my homeland, only to be rejected by uncaring fear and hate mongers. This year I am especially thankful to be an American, living in a country whose citizens, if they choose, can make all the difference in the lives of those who find it a daily struggle just to stay alive. As you celebrate Thanksgiving Day with your loved ones and reflect on all of your blessings, I wish you and yours a Thanksgiving Day which is filled with Peace, Health, Happiness, Love, and Laughter. Warmly, Rudy

Thanksgiving

I have always struggled with the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I think we need a national day on which we acknowledge our gifts; health, family, friends, etc. What I have difficulty with is, why do we need a special day for giving thanks? Shouldn’t it be a daily occurrence? Sadly, to me, it seems as if Thanksgiving Day has lost it’s meaning. Long before Halloween arrives, stores are displaying their holiday wares. Stores are competing with each other as to which one can begin their “Black Friday” sales the soonest. Some stores are opening their doors before families have finished their Thanksgiving meal! People are rushing to get through the opportunity to spend time with loved ones just so they can get to the stores to do their holiday shopping. What does this trend say about us, as a society, that Thanksgiving Day has become just a day off from work and a chance to get our holiday shopping done? This Thanksgiving, I hope we can return to a time when Thanksgiving was the day we spent with family and friends, stuffed ourselves silly, maybe watched some football, argue over politics, and shared with those gathered around the table, that for which we were truly thankful. This Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for my health, my family, my friends, and that I have been blessed to have served those who needed my professional services. I wish you and yours a Thanksgiving Day which is filled with Peace, Health, Happiness, Love, and Laughter. Warmly, Rudy

Shop Local

This Saturday is “Shop Local Saturday.” Shopping locally allows your community stores and companies to thrive and to return to your community in all kind of ways, not just financially. We support other local business, religious institutions, and local charities. This idea of shopping locally is no more important than when the need for funeral or memorial services arise. Supporting your local, independent funeral home rather than the out-of-state, conglomerate,  corporate funeral provider keeps your dollars in your community and allows us to support other local business and our own communities. Your local independent funeral home knows you, knows the local customs and traditions, and is committed to our local communities. To whom are the conglomerate funeral homes loyal? Certainly not you. And, without a doubt, your local, independently owned funeral home will cost you thousands of dollars less than the giant, corporate-owned funeral factories. On behalf of Chesed v’Emet and all the other local independent funeral directors, I hope you won’t need our services for many years. But, in the event you need us, we will respond to your every need, on “Shop Local Saturday,” on Thanksgiving Day and every other day of the year.

Counseling Services

I am pleased to announce that I am now accepting new clients to my counseling practice. With more than 20 years of experience as a  Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, and almost 40 years as a funeral director, I specialize in helping people with grief and loss issues, relationship issues, and substance abuse, as well as a whole range of difficulties that individuals and couples face. If you, or if you know someone who would benefit from speaking with an experienced, caring, licensed counselor, please call for an initial, no obligation and confidential phone interview. I offer flexible hours and convenient locations, and my services are covered by most insurance plans. I can be reached by phone at 847.577.0856 or by email at rudy@chesedvemet.com.

It Could Happen

No one wants to think about it, especially as we plan an exciting, long awaited vacation or business trip, but it can, and often does happen... a death occurs while away from home. What now? Your family is faced with the added burden and high costs of having to arrange for bringing you home for a funeral. Unfortunately, when you travel to conferences or for business or personal reasons, there are circumstances that are beyond your or anyone’s control. The costs for bringing you home can add upwards of $1500 to the funeral bill if the death occurs within the continental United States, and well over $3000 if overseas. Who does your family call first? Who can your family trust when death occurs far from home? Chesed v’Emet offers answers to these questions and we have something that is probably the wisest, least expensive choice for anyone who travels. Whether you travel one time a year or 10 time a year; whether your travel is to Disney World or Israel! Our “Return Assured” plan is a one-time, single-payment insurance policy that covers ALL transportation costs to return you from ANYWHERE in the world over 100 miles from your legal residence. Unlike other types of “trip insurance” which is purchased each time you travel, our “Return Assured” is a one-time cost and is always in force. For the current cost of $285, you can provide peace of mind and eliminate the added costs and emotional strain from your family. The application process is simple and takes less than 10 minutes to complete and you can’t be denied coverage for any reason. Every year, repatriation costs go up, but you can prevent a financial burden from being added to your family’s grief should the unthinkable happen. This protection is available regardless of which funeral director your family chooses to handle the funeral arrangements. The “Return Assured” coverage, along with a pre-arranged funeral, is the perfect compliment to your financial and asset planning. For more details, feel free to contact me. There’s no obligation for the opportunity to learn how you can make a tragedy easier for your family. Travel safely and with our “Return Assured” policy, you can enjoy your time away from home, free of the anxiety of wondering, what if....

Is Pre-Paying A Funeral Right For Me?

The simple answer is, maybe. There are times when pre-paying a funeral is a requirement for those who are on or applying for Public Aid assistance. In such instances as well as in any other, the consumer must be aware of what the pre-paid plan covers and what it doesn’t. Most states require that funds used to prepay a funeral either be placed in a special trust or used to purchase a life insurance policy. Either one can be a safe and secure means of providing for a future funeral. As with any contract, the “devil is in the details.” Before signing any contract you must be certain that all selections for services, merchandise, and all details of the arrangements are written out and have a monetary amount assigned to each. Funeral homes will usually guarantee their services and merchandise so this must be spelled out in the contract. Some items, known as “cash advance” items are usually not guaranteed as these costs are beyond the control of the funeral provider. It is better for the purchaser if they can pre-pay the cemetery costs, such as the interment charges, directly with the cemetery if they will guarantee, in writing, that there will be no additional costs at the time of need, unless the family arranges for an interment that would normally require additional costs, like overtime or holiday charges. These pre-paid accounts should earn interest and this interest is what funeral homes use to offset the increase in prices at the time of need. Sometimes there is an overage in the account and your contract should specify that any overage in the account is returned to the family if they elect not to use it for additional services or merchandise that they choose to add at the time of need. Also if great importance is the “portability” of the benefits. What happens if the insured moves and wants the services and merchandise provided at a place other than where they were originally purchased? Insurance policies are usually completely portable. Before signing any contract for a pre-paid funeral, read all the “fine print” as well as the regular size print. Talk to a family member or a trusted friend and ask them if this is something they would sign if they were in your circumstances. Don’t feel pressured to sign anything! Since time isn’t usually a factor when thinking of pre-paying for a funeral, do your homework. Compare the costs of the services and merchandise you’re thinking about with other funeral providers. (See the posts “Apples And Oranges” on how to do just that.) If a pre-paid funeral plan is written properly and includes all of your choices, then it just might be the right thing. It certainly can be an important part of your asset management and estate planning. If after your due diligence is done and you decide to go ahead with pre-paying, then all you have to do is enjoy the rest of your life without worrying about your funeral. For more information about pre-planning, go to my website: www.chesedvemet.com

Appples and Oranges Part II

In my previous post I discussed how to compare funeral service charges. This entry will discuss how to properly compare casket costs. As with the General Price List (see previous post) funeral homes are required to provide consumers with a Casket Price List. But, unlike the General Price List, funeral homes do not have to give their casket price list to anyone for them to keep. Funeral homes only have to show it to people before they make their selection. The Casket Price List must have caskets listed in descending order of price; they must be numbered; they must have the casket name, description, and manufacturer. They should be segregated as to type of casket, such as wood, metal, all wood, or a combination of materials. The Casket Price List is designed so a person can find a particular casket on the list without assistance from the funeral director. With a Casket Price List a person can select a casket based on their own criteria, whether it’s price, construction material, or personal esthetics.

Elsewhere on my website: www.chesedvemet.com  I detail the differences in caskets, so I won’t repeat that discussion here. I will only say that caskets are usually made from either wood, metal, or a combination of the two. When trying to compare casket costs, it’s imperative that you compare exact caskets. Comparing a “wood casket” to another “wood casket” simply isn’t enough. You must compare the species of wood, the thickness of the wood, the interior materials, and the quality of construction. For instance, comparing a pine casket to a solid plank mahogany casket is comparing apples to oranges. Similarly, trying to compare the cost of a 20 gauge non-protective metal casket to a 16 gauge protective metal casket is like comparing a minimum Chevy to a fully equipped Cadillac.

Listed on a funeral home’s General Price List the price range of the funeral home’s caskets must be listed. (I offer caskets ranging in price from $495 to $5595 and my General Price List is posted on my website (www.chesedvemet.com). There are relatively few casket manufacturers and distributors, so chances are your local funeral homes are getting their caskets from the same places. Even if they don’t carry the exact casket as their competitors, it’s still relatively easy to price compare...if you’re comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Once you decide on the type of casket you want, whether it’s a wood, a metal, or an all wood constructed casket, all funeral homes should have a comparative casket. For instance, if funeral home “A” has a casket called, the “Star,” which is described as an 18 gauge protective metal with a velvet interior, funeral home “B” might not carry the “star,” but I’m sure they have an 18 gauge protective metal casket with a velvet interior, only they call it the “Mojave.” It may or may not be the same color, but I’m sure it will be close. So, it’s important to compare exact types of caskets to one another in order to accurate price shop for a casket.

It is always easier to compare funeral prices before they’re needed. Don’t hesitate to call a few funeral homes to compare their full service charges as well as their casket prices. Just make sure you compare the total “bottom line” costs before making a selection of a funeral director. There are intangible considerations that may cause you to choose a slightly more expensive funeral home. These considerations are what’s known as “added values” and may include the type and location of facilities of the funeral home, how you “feel” you’re being treated as a potential client, and the recommendations of family and friends who have used a particular funeral director in the past.

You shouldn’t buy an apple when you really want an orange!