Reading time: < 3 minutes
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 somewhere 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.