The Perfect Heist

A cop and his partner investigate the death of an accountant, who is found in an industrial wood shredder (what’s left of him anyways).

In their search for the truth they end up with a pastor at a local church. This pastor turns out to be a con-man who had defrauded another congregation a few years before. His signature trade was to have the congregation work hard to make money for their parish. Next, the “wolf in sheep’s cloths” (aka the Pastor) would transfer the funds abroad (Curacao in this case) and vanish with his pretty partner.

The perfect heist
The perfect heist

However, this time the female partner realized she is betrayed by the pastor. She had found out that he impregnated another female of the congregation. In a twist these ladies start to work together and conspire against the pastor and have the congregation members kill him. They end up getting away with $357.000 and you see them sipping (virgin) margarita’s on the beach in Curacao. End good, all good! Or is it? For some reason(s) we don’t think this was the perfect heist….


The above story lines comes from an episode of the series “Grimm”. We watched some of this series on Netflix last week. The episode was called “the good shepherd”, in case you are interested. But his episode got us thinking, it is possible to survive and even thrive on the income from “the perfect heist” as commonly shown in movies and series? Time to find out!

The Perfect Heist - Curacao
The Perfect Heist – Location of Curacao

Let’s start with the story line as noted above. Besides the $357.000 heist from the parish in Portland, the initial heist from the first parish also collected $440.000. This totals to a nice $797.000, assuming all the transferred funds were untouched. Now, the two ladies had to fly to Curacao. There would have been costs for bank accounts and transfer fees. Let’s also assume they party a bit in the first month of “retirement”. A rough guess is that they would have about $790.000 left for a long-term stay on Curacao.

A Long and Happy Retirement?

For sake of simplicity we assume the 4%-rule is true and will hold up in the coming decades (this is debatable, we know). The 4% SWR would yield $31.600 per year. Let’s assume this is after taxes. Would these two ladies be able to survive in Curacao?

According to the Cost Of Living Index, Curacao is not too bad for individual costs. However there is no data rank for this place. We therefore assume it is about 65% of living in New York City (which is the benchmark). This percentage is based on neighboring countries/areas and the fact that Curacao is an tropical island (and thus more expensive for certain goods and services).

At 65% of NYC, the living costs without rent is approximately $727 per person per month (NYC = $1.119 pppm). Rental of an apartment outside a city with 3 rooms averages about $1371/month. The two ladies would therefore need about $2.825/month. This is $33.900/year. What do you know! If they are able to save about $2.300 per year, they might actually be able to make it. But it won’t be margaritas on the beach every day served by sexy waiters. It would be a relaxed, but a far from glamorous retirement.

Low Cost of Living Areas

Perhaps it’s not a bad idea for them to move to a lower COL area, to stretch the “hard earned” dollars a bit further. Based on the COL index, you’d likely end up in India, Egypt, Pakistan or Ukraine. If they’d like a bit less of an adventure and a more “western” feel to it, they could go to Las Palmas in Spain.

Las Palmas has a COL index of 48.62. This translates into living actual costs of just $544 pppm. Rent for a 3 bedroom apartment is about $621/month. This would mean total costs of $1709/month or $20.508/year. That would leave about $12.000 per year for sun, fun and margaritas! Guess we have a clear winner here.


But there is also a catch. Curacao and Spain both have an extradition treaty with the USA. Considering the two cops already know who they are, they could be in for some serious issues! More on this later.

Heist Amounts

In most cases heists are performed by a group of people. Even the electronic heists are usually done with a team of “experts”. I’ve make a short list of several movie heists and associated values (total and per person). It is actually quite hard to find the heist amount in most movie synopsis. If you feel I missed an important one (or two/three/etc.), please comment! Would love to make this list a bit longer.

  • Heist: Cash for sick daughter’s medical bill. Value: $300.000 (not for retirement, obviously)
  • Snatch: 86 carat diamond. Value: $3.9M. Team size 6 = $0.65M pp
  • The Score: Scepter. Value: $4.0M. Team size 4(?) = $1.0M pp
  • The Italian Job: Gold. Value $38M. Team size 6 = $6.33M pp
  • Ocean’s Eleven: Cash. Value $150M. Team size 11 = $13.63M pp

In most of the above examples, the guys/girls should be just fine financially. Especially in the case of Ocean’s Eleven! They would have no issue living in Zurich or Bermuda (the two highest COL areas in the index).

But in some of the above cases they are on the run from law enforcement, or pissed off gangsters/mobsters or even both. It is probably time to disappear instead of flaunting the new wealth, but where to go?

Safe and Affordable Locations to Retire for the Aspiring Criminal

A quick search on the interweb found the following post. There is quite the list of countries with no extradition treaty with the USA. This is the good news if you have law enforcement coming after you! However, as noted in the article, there is still the chance of you becoming a pawn of governments. A deal to extradite you might still be made and you would be out of luck (and in prison!).

That being said, the following countries could be interesting (depending on your retirement preferences):

  • Cuba (No COL index available)
  • Indonesia (Yogyakarta COL index = 35.08)
  • The Maldives (No COL index available)
  • Namibia (No COL index available)
  • Nepal (Kathmandu COL index = 34.24)
  • Morocco (Casablanca COL index = 37.94)
  • Samoa (No COL index available)
  • São Tomé & Príncipe (No COL index available)
  • Taiwan (Kaohsiung COL index = 59.78)
  • Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City COL index = 43.38)

Unsurprisingly, most these places have a pretty low COL and you could live like a king. Not really low key though….might attract more attention than you want. Guess if (fellow) gangsters are after you, the Brazilian jungle or Siberian mountains are a better place to stay. These places will undoubtedly have a low COL too, but are far from glamorous/comfortable.

The Perfect Heist - Cost Of Living Index
The Perfect Heist – Cost Of Living Index Map of the world

The Perfect Heist

The perfect heist is obviously difficult, as nothing is perfect. So here are some considerations for “the perfect heist” (or “practical heist”) from a financial perspective:

  • Gold is not too bad. The weight of $1M in gold today (@ $1.267/oz.) is about 789.3 oz. = 22.37 kg. You could still add this into your luggage and not have to pay extra when flying out of the country! It does have poor resale value at (smaller) jewelers/pawn shops. When stealing $1M in market value, you could probably lose up to 30% or so in commissions/exchange rates.
  • Diamonds are great in the sense that they are light and easy to transport. The price is however subject to the market, quality and the size (higher carat diamonds are generally worth more per carat). You would have to steel many more smaller ones to get the same value. But in this case you should probably still steel small diamonds, as the bigger ones are more difficult as there are fewer available. Finding a balance is key here.
  • Cash might also be a problem too depending on how much you steal. The weight of $1M in $20 bills is 50kg and encompasses nearly 52l of volume! That’s an extra charge at the airport (unless you use points or are a frequent flyer). Perhaps you better steel $100 notes, in that case you are down to 10 kg and just over 10.3l of volume. That should fit in a backpack! Traceability might still be a problem, as each bill has a unique number/code.
  • Art is a tricky one as the value per weight/dimensions can be really high. But because art is so unique, selling it might be difficult. When you sell on the black market it is likely also at significantly reduced values.
  • That leaves electronic data/currency, which has no weight (unless you transport on a stick of drive). It might take some time to shift the funds via different banks in different countries to a final destination bank or banks. Even better, transfer into Bitcoin or some other non-traceable digital currency. This way you might be able to really disappear of the (virtual) radar. But with Bitcoin, the value in USD also changes and I’m not sure about any transfer/transaction fees. The fluctuations might actually work two ways, it could make you even more money, or result in big losses. Only time will tell.

The Moral of this Story

If you plan “the perfect heist” of some sorts, make sure it is for a good amount of (guaranteed) money to cover your risks. And quickly get your butt to a non-extradition country and lay low for a while!

But despite all the options, the perfect heist is likely not doing one at all. Probably better to just slash costs of living and invest the difference into income producing assets. This is almost a guarantee for success with no risk to your personal life. Clear win if you’d ask me.

So, no plans on our side for any of this, but one can dream, right?! How about you, what’s your perfect heist?

P.s. interesting trivia, the actor playing the con-man/pastor actually stopped working to sail around the world for 2.5 years with his family! Seems like a smart cookie that knows how to value life and experiences.


  1. Apparently now I need to go back and binge watch all of the Oceans movies. And probably Indiana Jones while I’m at it. All besides that last one of course. Guess no heist is perfect. Just need to do your research first and know what to do when it’s all over with. But I love it when a plan comes together. OK, apparently I watch too many movies.

  2. Hahhaa…are you planning the perfect heist and off into the sunset you go? It’s always interesting the twists and turns these shows take and I do wonder how often criminals say, you should do XYZ if you really want to get away with it in their head. Great article thanks for sharing!!!

  3. Hmm…are you planning some kind of theft Cheesy Finance? I don’t think many thieves really think it through as well as you did!

    If you don’t want to live on the run, earning it honestly is easier. Besides, more money is stolen with a pen and accounting trickery than any kind of heist!

  4. I watch too many crime shows and knew Curaco was an extradition country. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad knowledge to have.
    There is a show on Netflix called Leverage, where a group of thieves steal back money taken from relatively innocent people by bad guys or slimy corporations. Robin Hood style usually not keeping any for themselves, as their first heist had a sizeable payout.
    There is also White Collar where a former art thief works with the fbi tracking down other art thieves instead of going back to prison. He may be doing shady stuff on the side though….
    I could probably think up some great plans, but really I have ‘enough’. I’m not yet FI but headed that way. Part of my reason for FI is to spend time with friends and family so being on the run wouldn’t work.
    I loved how you reasoned this scenario out. I’m content to keep watching and letting the guys / gals on tv take the fall. 🙂

    1. Hey Jacq, you are well informed! I had to look up if Curacao had an extradition treaty 🙂
      We actually also enjoyed a couple of episodes of both Leverage and White Collar, quite entertaining, but not really the best series around. But I did not remember any numbers in terms of heists (and kind of forgot about these two series).
      Point taken on being “on the run” after a heist, not the greatest thing to have when you want to spend time with family and friends!

  5. Ha crime, quite frankly, the returns versus the risk are just not worth it once you have even a modest stash. It would be far better to concentrate on getting an extra % of return on the stash (legally): more money and zero risk.

    I have always said the highest cost of it is the fact that the earned money is not official and hence cannot generate returns. And making it legal has its own costs: often 30% or higher (which makes me think that as long no violence is used the government doesn’t really care that much, they will be getting their cut in the end). So either the earned amount is low and is some sort of pocket money (which also gets spend as pocket money in most cases, not really helping the financial situation of the person doing it long term) or you make a career out of it and then you have the issue of having non official income. Then you have to run two careers: the unofficial one and then a fake official one to launder your unofficial money. If you are capable of doing this in a way you do not get caught you might as well go legal because it means you have the skills and discipline to land a decent job and achieve financial freedom that way.

    It is just not worth the hassle in my opinion (then again, I am a lazy sloth).

    1. So you are saying that crime does not pay (enough return on investment), I can agree with that! The score would have to be really good to make it worth the hassles and risk. Anything below about $2-3M is probably not worth it. Risks are too high.

  6. DO we need to be carfull next time we need? do you have a weird plan in mi d? 😉

    A nice thinking exercise. Why not go to a real cheap country? And yes, good idea to add the check to see if they will hand you over to the local authorities. Maybe an idea to improve the COL site…Enter the country of your crime and see if there is a hit! 🙂

    All fun aside, behave, save,invest and have fun, and you can go wherever you want

  7. She could have also made her partner in crime ‘disappear’ of course. Bet that will save up some money… 🙂

    Loved this post, almost thought you were into writing a thriller. But this is way better! I think the biggest restriction isn’t so much as to how much you get out of the heist, but the more practical things you mention like chasing cops and such.

    Saving and investing sounds like a better plan to me! Although it’s pretty important that if you invest, you also make sure you will get a certain amount of money out of it in the end as well…

    1. Killing the partner would have been a double murder as she was pregnant. But yeah, would save up quite a bit of money 😉
      I’m a pretty bad writer, so the thriller would really suck. But this was a fun post to write and investigate. Honestly thinking about planning a holiday to Las Palmas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.