Some industries are known for their lack of transparency – placing consumers at an incredible disadvantage. The cost of financial advice, a new vehicle, or a cell phone plan (to name a few) can vary widely and it’s not always clear if consumers are getting a fair deal.
Technology has helped balance the scales, offering real-time data and price comparisons to arm consumers with the knowledge they need to negotiate on a level playing field.
But one industry is still stuck in an outdated, predatory, and expensive model. It’s something we don’t talk about enough because the topic is taboo – the cost of dying.
Funeral expenses are the third largest expense in someone’s life, and the number one crowdfunding category. The average cost of a funeral in Canada is $10,000, a cost that is outpacing other consumer services by a landslide.
It needs to change, and consumers deserve transparency and better, more affordable options.
That option is now here, thanks to a new online cremation service called Eirene. Co-founded by Mallory Greene, Eirene allows families to make a cremation arrangement entirely online — from the comfort of their own home.
There’s no shopping around, up-selling or in-person visits required. It’s the peace of mind that you’re receiving the best care for your loved one, with a focus on your experience during an incredibly difficult time.
Eirene currently operates in Southern Ontario, with a team of licensed funeral directors who are on call for you and your loved ones — whenever you need it. They are licensed and regulated by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario, and their industry partners are licensed and vetted to deliver the best service to you.
I had the chance to interview Ms. Greene about Eirene and how it’s disrupting the funeral industry.
Q1). Why did you decide to enter the business of arranging funerals?
MG: This is the first question I get when I share Eirene. Previously, I worked at Wealthsimple as part of their founding team. I worked on everything from marketing to HR to communications. I had an incredible experience there, learning how to build a business from the ground up and create something that could positively impact people’s lives.
But despite the fact that my background has been working in financial technology, I am the daughter of a funeral director. So, unlike most people, death and the conversation around end-of-life has been a massive part of my upbringing and identity. I felt that I was in a unique position to combine my love for technology with my knowledge in an industry that desperately needed transparency and education.
Surprisingly, there are many similarities between the funeral and the financial industry. When Wealthsimple first launched, talking about money was still relatively uncommon. Wealthsimple focused on the accessibility of their product, empowered people to take control of important decisions, and helped them plan for the future. And that’s exactly what I want to do at Eirene in the death-care space.
Q2). Arranging a funeral can be expensive and complicated. How does Eirene change this experience?
MG: At Eirene, we’re focused on providing a better experience to families during an incredibly difficult time.
The traditional process of arranging a funeral is time-consuming and overwhelming. Since many of us aren’t thinking or planning for end-of-life, when a death occurs, we are shocked by the price of funerals and the amount of paperwork. And, keep in mind, this is all while dealing with the death of a loved-one.
Eirene was many years in the making, and after a lot of in-depth research, we discovered that three critical factors needed to exist to create a better experience for families.
Simplicity: The arrangement process is made simple for families during a challenging time. You don’t have to walk into a funeral home and fill out endless paperwork. You can simply go online, enter the required details, and we will handle the rest.
Affordability: Pricing in the funeral industry is opaque, recently highlighted in the most recent Auditor General’s report. It can vary drastically between providers, and pricing that you see on a funeral website’s home page is often not what you end up paying. Eirene offers all-inclusive pricing to ensure that there are no surprise bills or hidden fees.
Transparency: Eirene was founded to bring transparency to the funeral industry and provide education to consumers. We know the importance of planning for major milestones, including end-of-life. We provide free tools and resources to families across Canada to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, whether they use our services or not.
Q3). What is the cost of a typical funeral, and how much does Eirene charge for a similar service?
MG: The average Canadian pays $5,000 for a cremation, with a traditional funeral costing upwards of $20,000. The cost can drastically range, because of the complexity of package pricing, so comparing funeral homes can be quite tricky.
Unfortunately, funeral costs are often a sticker shock to many, which is why funeral fundraising is the fastest-growing crowdfunding campaign category. Many people can simply not afford to die.
At Eirene, we believe that everyone should access affordable, dignified death care, no matter their financial circumstance. We have one cremation package price of $2,500 plus tax. This includes everything you would need to ensure the highest quality of care for the person you love without worrying about finances.
Our package includes the transfer, storage and cremation of your loved one, including hand-delivery of their remains. We also provide 24/7 support from our team of licensed funeral directors, help with all government-related paperwork, and give you access to estate administration tools to help you close accounts, notify the government and credit bureaus.
People often ask how we keep our costs low and wonder if it means their loved one will get a different level of care. The simple answer is that we do not carry the same overhead that a funeral home would because we are a technology business.
This means that we can pass on savings to the families who choose Eirene. It’s the same standard of care that you expect from a funeral home, but at an affordable cost to everyone.
Q4). You help clients plan a direct cremation online. More Canadians are choosing cremation versus a traditional burial. Can you talk about that growing trend and give some insight into why this might be happening?
MG: In the past few years, there have been significant shifts in how people think and plan for end-of-life. They’re creating more individualistic, less traditional ceremonies and seeking to commemorate people in unique ways.
It seems that more Canadians are moving towards cremation because of the price, flexibility and simplicity of the process. Some families have a limited budget that they cannot exceed. That, however, is not the case for everyone. For others, it’s about spending money in a way that makes sense to them. They would rather put the money towards a memorial service or find a beautiful way to memorialize their loved one.
Beyond price, the process of cremation is a straightforward task at the time of passing. There are fewer immediate decisions to make, which eases the process for grieving families. Often, they feel that there is more flexibility and time given to them. You can let remains go that day, or you can have them for six years, sixty years, or pass them on to future generations. You can host a memorial service a year later, scatter the remains at your favourite location or turn them into a diamond. The options are quite endless.
Q5). Your direct cremation service takes care of funeral arrangements from start to finish. Is there anything you can’t (or won’t) do?
MG: As mentioned above, our cremation package includes everything you would need to ensure that your loved one is taken care of and you receive support during a difficult time. We are hyper-focused on supporting families through the tasks that need to be completed immediately following a death. We don’t currently offer any burial or memorial services.
Beyond that, our resources and blog aim to help Canadians find the right providers and services based on their preferences. As we grow, we will expand our offerings and connect families to vetted partners to help them through various end-of-life stages.
We’re starting with a cremation package, as that’s what over 72% of Canadians choose today, but we know that there are many other options that families are seeking.
Q6). Eirene is currently serving Southern Ontario. What are your plans for expanding this service?
MG: We started in the Greater Toronto Area and recently expanded our offering to families across Southern Ontario. We see a real need for our business, and we hope to continue to grow throughout Canada.
Beyond our expansion news, we are launching a pre-need funeral insurance product very soon, an option for families to pre-pay for their funeral package at Eirene. It’s a way for families to put their funeral wishes in writing and alleviate the financial burden at the time of death.
You can sign up for the waitlist here.
Lastly, I’m inspired by the idea of introducing new methods of dispositions, especially those that are environmentally friendly. We are looking forward to expanding our offerings and helping families memorialize their loved ones in unique, new ways.
Technology is disrupting industries all around us. Robo advisors offer low cost, evidence-based investing on the cheap. Consumers have access to free credit scores and affordable borrowing options. Rate comparison sites can scan the market to tell us where to find the lowest mortgage rates, or the highest savings account rate. You can even create a Will online.
Yet here we are in 2021, still visiting a funeral home in-person, grieving and armed with practically zero knowledge about the cost of a cremation or burial.
Thankfully, a service like Eirene is now available to shine a light on the cost of dying and help Canadians plan and arrange an affordable cremation online.
Boomer & Echo readers can receive $250 off their package when planning a funeral arrangement online with Eirene.