A social stigma that has imperiled family finances for generations is going up in smoke.

This year, for the first time, half of Americans who die could be cremated—nearly double the rate just 15 years ago.

Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America, calls it the new tradition.

Reasons cited for the trend include more Americans relying less on religion to direct their lives to the greater dispersal of family members throughout the country, making it more time consuming and expensive for relatives to gather around a burial site.

Over 70 percent choose cremation in Nevada, Washington and Oregon, western states with a large number of retirees and transplanted residents.

Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi, where a greater share of the populace is rooted to their hometowns and their churches, are the only three states with under a quarter of the deceased going to their final resting place via cremation.

The savings of cremation can be substantial.

On average, families can forgo over $5,000 in end-of-life costs for a loved one by opting for cremation over a traditional burial, notes Parting.com, which surveys funeral services providers around the country.

For those who choose cremation, comparison shopping at the time of grieving can ward off financial grief later.

Cremation costs within a single metro area can vary by more than $2,000, according to report by the Consumer Federation of America and the Funeral Consumers of Alliance.

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