“I’m not in the meth business, I am in the empire business.” That’s what Walter “Walt” White told Jesse when he saw him getting excited over a ‘mere’ $5 million. What started out as a race against time to make enough money for his family in case he succumbed to cancer ended up being an obsession for Walt.
He no longer just wanted money, he wanted to be the biggest drug lord. But was he? Was he even the biggest earner? Well, money drove most of the decisions made by the main characters in the AMC series. For some, it paid off. For others, it didn’t. Here’s a ranking of the main characters in Breaking Bad by their wealth.
10 Hank Schrader
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS), law enforcement officers working for federal government agencies earn a median salary of around $65,000 per year. Since Hank was not just a normal DEA field agent but a special agent in charge of other officers, he ought to have been making at least $100,000 annually.
This income wasn’t enough for Hank and his family to live comfortably. He drove a Jeep Commander, which ranges from $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the year of manufacture. And after the shooting incident with The Cousins, he was unable to fully carter for his hospital bills, hence Slyker had to force Walt to pay.
9 Skyler White
Skyler was very hardworking. Ted Beneke mentioned that the company had suffered without her. It can be presumed that she was a 90th percentile bookkeeper while working for Beneke Fabricators. According to Payscale, 90th percentile bookkeepers in the US earn around $111,000 annually. While this is a decent sum, Skyler didn’t keep the job for long.
At the start of the series, she had quit her job. She was only surviving by selling items on eBay. She later worked at the A1A Car Wash but this wasn’t to her benefit but to Walt’s benefit. By the end of the series, Skyler had lost her assets and was moved into a small apartment with her children while working as a taxi dispatcher.
8 Jesse Pinkman
Jesse might argue that Walt messed up his life but if it wasn’t for the former chemistry teacher, Jesse would still be a small-time dealer. By the end of the first season, he had earned $117,000, more than he had made in his criminal career so far. In Season 4, he had his biggest payout when he got $5 million from the sale of his methylamine stash.
Too bad he didn’t get to keep all his money. Saul Goodman took his cut for all the services he provided. Jesse also bought his parents’ house for $400,000, though this was still part of his net worth. In the Season 5 episode titled “Blood Money,” he decided to be Santa Claus by throwing away bundles of cash in the streets. Bad decision! By the events of El Camino, he didn’t have $250,000 when he needed it to pay Ed Galbraith aka The Disappearer.
As Gus Fring’s most trusted henchman (a position he held for many years), it would make sense for Mike to be close to the top (if not first) on his payroll list. Performing endless and dangerous tasks for a wealthy drug kingpin would mean he got paid at least $100,000 per month. In a year that sums up to about $1.2 million.
It’s important to remember that Mike also made $5 million from the sale of his portion of methylamine after the death of his boss. To add to that, he also did private investigative work for Saul, though his earnings for this specific gig were never disclosed. On the lower side, Mike made about $7 million during his time on Breaking Bad alone.
6 Saul Goodman
One of the first questions Saul asked Walt was “Have you seen my hourly rate?” This implied that he charged his clients a lot. He requested $4650 just to take on the Badger case. His office, though located in a strip mall, was shown to be full at all times. This meant that Saul was probably the most in-demand lawyer in Albuquerque
Before he met Walt and Jesse, Saul had dealt with many other drug lords. For example, in Better Call Saul, he charged Lalo $100,000 just to pick up a stack of cash. By combining his legal income with the cuts he gets by making the wishes of gangsters come true, his net worth could easily sum up to the tens of millions.
5 Uncle Jack
Uncle Jack started out as the leader of a white supremacist gang. His earnings mostly came from conducting hits. Since he had built a big enough reputation for guys like Walt to high him, it could be assumed that he pulled off many successful hits per year, hence he made a lot of money.
And towards the end of the series, he made about $70 million, thanks to him forcefully, thanks to him taking 7 barrels of cash belonging to Walt. He was definitely living comfortably between Walt decided to spoil the part for him and his gang in the finale.
4 Walter White
Before fate smacked him in the back of the head, Walt had made $80 million in cash which he went on to bury in the desert. Since the cash was divided and placed into eight barrels, we can assume that Walt remained with $10 million after Jack and his gang took seven barrels.
This means that even at his lowest, he still had plenty of money. In the period when he was in hiding, Walt spent some money on supplies. And when he finally returned to Albuquerque he made sure to leave $9 million for his son.
3 Tuco Salamanca
Tuco was in charge of the Juarez Cartel’s operations in Albuquerque, a position which qualifies him as a top earner. According to a 2018 report by Reuters, a top-tier Mexican cartel rakes in about $20 billion a year in gross revenue. Assuming operational costs are about $5 billion, the profit comes to $15 billion.
In Breaking Bad, the Juarez Cartel was one of the major organizations in Mexico. Since Tuco was heading a whole region that was crucial to the cartel’s income, his cut shouldn’t have been anywhere less than $500 million a year. And even though he died in Season 2, he had been in the game for a couple of years, hence he must have accumulated plenty of cash.
Lydia Rodarte-Quayle was the Head of Logistics at Madrigal Electromotive GmbH. Holding such a high position at a global firm worth billions of dollars would translate to a lucrative income as well. Lydia revealed that the company had 114, 000, and had invested in over 100 businesses.
Alongside Peter Schuler, Lydia was one of Gus Fring’s major partners in his meth operation. So, apart from her lucrative salary, she got a huge cut annually from the drug sales.
1 Gus Fring
Walt and Jesse cooked meth worth $96 million for Gus Fring in just three months. Walt’s product had 99% purity, which meant it had more value. Assuming his previous product (which was less pure) netted him about $70 million every three months, he’d still be making $280 million a year even before working with Walt.
Note that meth wasn’t Fring’s only source of income. Though he mostly used Los Pollos Hermanos to launder money, he still made some money from the restaurant chain. There were plenty of customers coming in. This easily makes Gus the wealthiest character in the series.