Why I Rob Banks

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I knew a guy named Willie Sutton in college. (He wisely went by Will.) I guess there are tougher names parents can saddle you with, but the list is short. Probably not many folks with the surname Hitler, and it is beyond my imagination they’d name a son Adolph. Any Chuck Mansons should change their name before starting a Facebook page.

Anyway, back to my original point, because I do have one. Willie Sutton – the notorious bank robber, not the one I knew – is alleged to have answered a reporter’s question about why he robbed banks with a simple response: “Because that’s where the money is.”

So it got me to wondering. Is Bank Robber a wise career choice? Let’s run some quick numbers and decide. I’ve done some research through folks like the FBI, US News & World Report and a few other statistical places.

[“Maybe I should re-title this “Why I Write Instead of Robbing Banks”]

First takeaway: Bank Robber is a significantly better career choice than convenience store robber, where the average take is a mere $769. Add in a free Super Big Gulp and you’re still only at a value of $771.

Depending on who you believe, the average take for an American bank robbery is dye packsomewhere between $4,120 and $4,730. So, better than a c-store, and you’re likely not paying taxes on your haul, but still a far cry from a cushy life.

There are ways to become a smarter bank robber. For instance, robbing a bank in the morning pulls in a whopping 40% more than your typical afternoon bank heist. But if most robbers weren’t lazy and woke earlier, they’d likely select a different career choice.

So let’s say you want to become a bank robber and live like an average American. You’d need $53,657 to match the average annual income of an American family in 2015. That means 12 successful bank robberies each year. Now the numbers work against you.

Upon your third heist, the odds tilt in the favor of law enforcement that you’re likely going to be caught. Some folks, of course will be caught on their first attempt because, karma. And stupidity. (True story: a recent alleged bank thief left his coat behind, which contained a prescription bottle emblazoned with his name.)

After you’re caught, the numbers really stack against you. As in, a maximum 20-year federal prison sentence when you’re caught and convicted. Use a gun, and that number rises significantly.

Conclusion: Despite the fact that there are still roughly 5,000 bank robberies a year in the United States, it’s not a profession that pays off. Or even pays the bills for very long. I’d advise going into writing instead. Sure, the odds of success are worse, but nobody will lock you up when they catch you writing.

10 thoughts on “Why I Rob Banks

  1. Ellie, you’re spot on. The politicians get to make their own rules. The criminals have to follow them. Which they don’t do so well. Hence, the trouble … and the interesting characters that develop from it.

    P.S. As I’m new to this blogosphere, now I have to figure out how to do that smiley emoji.


  2. Oh, I don’t know. Some of the things I’ve read–writing so bad the authors should be arrested for crimes against literacy. 😉

    Harpo Marx’s real name was Adolf. That’s what comes of being born in the 1800s. But it’s true, the names Aldof and Hitler have all but become extinct post-1945. Has there been anyone else in history who was and is reviled that much? I suppose Attila and Genghis are really popular names anymore either…

    Fun post, John! 😀


  3. Wow, didn’t know about Harpo. Now, you’re making me want to start a list, Colin. It’s like hurricane names that get retired after delivering too much destruction … what other historical names get banished or virtually banished because of a person with that name? I guess Judas has been gone for a while.

    Okay, I’m starting my list. Darn you, Colin!


  4. I like the analysis. Simple and thoughtful. And that pile of bloody money is a bit of a deterrent too. Just saying.

    The smiley thing? Type this : and then this ) directly after, and you get this 🙂


  5. I had an uncle Bloody Money from Pittsburgh. He wasn’t a great uncle but he did his best. He declared bankruptcy during the great depression. Nobody has heard from him since.


  6. I’ve heard from him. I’ve been meaning to tell you, but the time never seemed right. His done quite well for himself. Changed his name to Ben Rothlisberger.

    No, no, not THAT Ben Rothlisberger. Different spelling. Different Uncle Ben. Yours invented some rice or something like that. He says for you to have a good life. And don’t rob any banks. Nobody gets away with it anymore.


  7. Although I am very happy that uncle Bloody Money a.k.a. Uncle Ben has done quite well for himself, please pass along that he owes me 87 years of birthday and Christmas presents. He should also know that aunt Adolf got pregnant from that transient railroad worker with the brown front tooth and the clubbed foot. The twins were so cute and became quite famous and lived in a Full House with John Stamos.


  8. Mr. Money, I’m checking your math. Uncle Ben seems sprightly for an 87-year-old, but it sounds like you’re claiming he owes you for birthday and Christmas presents before you were even born. As Ben’s de facto spokesperson, he is seeking a compromise.

    Since he’s earned 87 birthday presents and you’ve only earned about 44, it would seem you actually owe him a few birthday and Christmas gifts. To make things simpler, if you want to just fund my Pay Pal account, I’ll be sure he gets his money. After my 20% handling fee. We’ll work on Aunt Adolph and the twins next.


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