Empowerment Knowledge

Til death, do we part!

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.  Love leaves a memory no one can steal”

It’s an old age tradition that before we embark on a new year we set out goals and aspirations that we wish to strive for during the year ahead. 

Unfortunately, statistics show that a high percentage of us abandon our resolutions by the end of February.  As the year commences I wanted to bring to your attention (in particularly the black community) the importance of buying and ensuring that you and those close to you have life insurance and make sure that your affairs are in order as part of your resolution going forwards.  

In recent years, it seems that we the black community have had a high rate of deaths and over the past 10 years I personally have attended more funerals than I have birthday parties, weddings or christenings. It appears that funerals and nine nights (Caribbean wake) have become a ‘social event’ where the community now comes together (and very frequently at that).  Death has never discriminated against age, race, social status or wealth and although the bible suggests that we should live up to three scores and a ten (70), we are losing family members and friends of all ages.

However I’ve discovered, through personal observations and a number of conversations with family, friends and acquaintances we are slowly losing our traditions.  On top of this, funeral costs have spiralled; with a basic burial funeral amounting to £9,204(including wake, flowers, order of service, additional cars and legal fees etc) at a minimum. For, the black community I believe we should add an additional 30% to these costs. Our community is more likely to be looking to spend at least £12,000 for a funeral.  It has been suggested that the funeral industry is now worth approximately £2 billion a year with costs rising above inflation during the last 10 years.  It has also been rumoured ( a documentary on this subject was aired some years ago) and suggested that funeral homes over charge people of colour.  Crazy right?  What’s even more crazy is that if we leave no provisions for our family (who are not only left with the pressure of losing a loved one, but also trying to find thousands of pounds in a matter of weeks to lay them to rest) this can result in financial hardship and debt for our relatives later on.
The UK BAME communities’ culture and traditions encourage open funerals and as a consequence we tend to have very large funerals because our grandparents and/or parents were the first and second generation to arrive in the UK.  Whilst settling and forming their foundations the BAME communities developed a very strong community spirit amongst ourselves, therefore we routinely attend a funeral to offer support to the grieving family and to pay respect to the individual who has passed away.

My mother always told me that during the loss of a loved one, it’s important for friends and extended family to support the bereaved family which is something that I totally agree with, but what I have apprehensions of is when a funeral becomes more of a get together and rave.  In my mind this style of event can devalue the culture, taint the true purpose of what these traditions signify and influence what we are teaching the younger generation – to do the same.  

I agree that as time goes by we adapt as we evolve, but it is important for us to maintain and pass down the authentic traditions to the younger generation which I think as adults of the community we are currently failing to do.  
As a descendant of Caribbean heritage it is customary for us to have a wake on the ninth night that the deceased passed away, whereby we assist them in their travelling to their final resting place. Back in the days a nine night would be held at the deceased’s house and we would celebrate their life by praying for them, singing hymns, eating and drinking.  We would all cook and bring drinks to share.  Today, nine nights have changed; it’s become the warm up to the funeral, a social gathering, a place where you meet up with friends and family from the past.  We seldom conduct the prayers and hymns which were the primary reason for the wake and instead of this being held in the home because of the large numbers of people, they are now held in a hall with the family occasionally having to pay for caterers to accommodate – an additional expense to the mounting funeral costs.
A number of reportsshow that BAME groups are disadvantaged in a number of areas such as employment, education, savings, etc and most either are self employed or work in low income employment.  As a consequence, this enables the exclusion of BAME groups from accessing financial services such as financial advice and affordable loans.  60%of BAME people in the UK do not have any savings in comparison to their white counterparts, with white families average household asset wealth at £221,000 compared with £97,000 Pakistani, £76,000 Black Caribbean, Black African £21,000 and Bangladeshi families having £15,000. Based on these stats, it is important for us to ensure that we engage with the appropriate organisations ahead of an emergency to ensure that we purchase the right insurances to prevent further hardship and uncertainty for our families.  
Some of us may already be partially covered by our employers and may be eligible to ‘death in service’ which is a benefit that pays an employee’s next of kin two to four times the amount of their annual salary eg someone on £25,000 per year beneficiary’s could receive a payment between £50,000 – £100,000.  To determine if you qualify for this benefit, it’s important to speak with your employers  Human Resources department who can advise you on what you are entitled to.  Although, statistics suggest that most BAME groups have a low income, ensuring that we have the appropriate life insurance cover is still affordable especially as it is suggested that black people in the UK are the highest consumers with a £300 billion share in the market.  
In addition to buying life insurance, it is important for us to have a willas it will clearly set out our requests for who we want to be in charge of managing our estate and who we would like to give our money, property and possessions to when we pass away.  It can also set out our wishes for our funeral arrangements and if we have any dependents who we would like them to go to. This not only makes things easier for the family, it also prevents disputes amongst family members, as often when people are grieving they can lose sight of any sense of compromise  and more often than not, everyone assumes they knew the deceased the most and assumes they know what they would like better than the rest. 

Over 60%of adults from the age range of 18 to over 55 years do not have a will, with 75% of 35 – 54 year olds not having a valid will in place despite having children and financial commitments.  By not having a valid will in place, the government will consider that you or a loved one have died ‘intestate’, this means that they will decide who is eligible to inherit your possessions.  Dying intestate could result in eliminating children/ grandchildren from previous marriages or relationships and cohabiting partners and your loved ones may have to pay more inheritance tax, thus losing out on potential generational wealth.  

We delay putting off doing one of the most critical things in our life for a number of reasons such as thinking we have enough time to do it, we do not have enough assets and for most of us sticking our heads in the cloud.  Unfortunately however,  death is inevitable for all of us and none of us can predict (God forbid) when this will happen.  It is important for all of us (even those as young as 18 years old) to get our affairs in order whilst we still have the say.  This can be cost effective if we shop around, talk to reputable financial advisors and legal professionals, all it requires is commitment and time on our behalf, but once it has been done we can have the piece of mind in the knowledge that we have put things in place (as best we can). 

You can buy life insurance from as little as £5 per month and you can also buy a will stationery kit from any reputable outlets such as WHSmith for as little as £5 – 25 – to secure your families future does not have to be expensive (depending on the circumstances).  

Finally, it’s pointless if once we have sorted out our affairs, we do not keep it secure.  You do not need to share the contents of your will; however it is IMPORTANT that you store it in a safe and secure place where it can be found.  Therefore, it is recommended that you tell your executor (as well as write it down) where it is and how they can get this.  There are a number of options that you can consider (but not exclusive), which can be found on the Money Advice Service website here, but please ensure you do your research and go with what makes you most comfortable.

Please don’t delay this any further, do the right things and ensure that your family is left in an emotional, mental and financially secure position. To start the ball rolling I have included a few useful links  to  help you with your research and get the process rolling:

About Author

South London Blogger, who is passionate about writing topics that have an impact on people of colour in the UK!

(5) Comments

  1. Despite being uncomfortable reading – this piece is crucial reading. The inevitability of death means that we should prepare for it. I never considered the fall out and effects of not planning. Thank you for the wake up call.

  2. Thank you. I feel it is important that we understand the implications if we do not make arrangements ahead of an emergency. It prevents so much for the family members left behind. We also need to have these serious discussions with our young adults to. As the old Caribbean saying goes ‘prevention is always better than the cure’

  3. Lady, this was an excellent read and well needed nudge in the right direction. I will be circulating and thank you for taking your time to invest in our community by penning such a blog. Hopefully this will be forwarded/viewed/read with the same enthusiasm as those unimportant videos we are all accustomed to seeing.

  4. Thank you so much. As people we take things for granted and put vital things off and for some it comes too late and at a high cost.

    It’s important that those in a position who are able to gather the information to share the knowledge. With knowledge, comes empowerment.

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