‘Breaking Bad’: Walter White Made 3 Money Mistakes That Seem Obvious in Hindsight

Breaking Bad is one of the great television shows of all time, depicting a man hellbent on acquiring power spiraling out of control. Walter White is one of TV’s most legendary antiheroes, and while his ultimate fate is tragic, fans couldn’t help but be transfixed by his downfall.

Whether it was Walt’s early time as a simple chemistry teacher or his grotesque transformation into criminal mastermind Heisenberg, it was riveting to watch. Breaking Bad fans have commented on the many mistakes Waltter White made during his run as a drug creator and kingpin, and three of them in particular were related to money.

Bryan Cranston sits on a panel for a discussion about 'Breaking Bad'
Bryan Cranston answers questions about Breaking Bad | Daniel Zuchnik/FilmMagic

Walter White accepted cash, often in lump sum payments

Breaking Bad fans took to Quora to discuss Walt’s many money mistakes, and three of them are listed below. One of the worst was his tendency to accept big payments. 

No matter how big the deal, Walt dealt in all cash. He’d take the entire total upfront from people paying him, Ultimately, Walt didn’t have his money sent to offshore accounts that would have been free from U.S. government tax intervention (or at the very least, delayed the government finding out about it).

As savvy as Walt was when it came to cooking crystal meth, he could have used an accountant with a much better handle on the kind of illicit financial transactions he was dealing with. 

One fan put it best: 

“It is completely ridiculous to believe that Lydia would have brought him close to $80 million in cash. Anyone sensible wouldn’t have taken more than $10-15 million at the MOST in cash and had the reminder deposited in accounts in tax havens around the world.”

Keeping all of his money in one location

RELATED: The 8 Episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ You Need to Watch Before ‘El Camino’

Walt also kept all of his dough hidden in one spot. This introduced a single point of failure that represented a serious risk to his economic stability. If one person came across Walt’s stash, he could have been ruined in one fell swoop.

A smarter play would have been to have the cash hidden in various places that his enemies wouldn’t have thought to look. It’s almost mind-boggling to think he would have operated with such a glaring vulnerability to his entire enterprise. He exposed himself to a great deal of danger by not diversifying the hiding places for his money. 

Too hungry for power and money

Finally, Walt didn’t know when to step away. Look at some great artists of the past century: the Beatles in music, the TV show Seinfeld, or the basketball player Michael Jordan. All left (at least initially) while they were at the top of their respective games. They left their fans wanting more rather than hanging on for too long. 

Walt could have taken a lesson for all of them. A smart move would have been to identify a number — Walt had plenty of money, so he definitely had enough of a net worth for a lifetime of comfort early on in the show’s run — and then get out of town. Walt could have financed a new life for his family. He could have stayed in town and simply retired before he got too entangled in the criminal underworld. 

In short, Walter White got too greedy and chased too much money. Based on the character, it’s unlikely the money is what truly drove Walt, however. What drove him was the power and respect he achieved cooking meth.