As a civil servant, James Bond never earned much money through his line of work. He’s a secret agent, so the salary of any real-world equivalent to Bond today would also be a secret. But one thing is for sure: because Bond’s job is a government job, he’s not being paid like a banker. As Scaramanga says, Bond works ‘for peanuts. A “well done” from the Queen and a pittance of a pension.’ Being formerly an ‘underpaid assassin’ for the KGB himself, Scaramanga would know what he’s talking about.
How much does Bond earn?
Whatever Bond earns, it’s certainly not one million dollars a kill in 1974 money. Ian Fleming specified Bond’s salary in the 1955 novel Moonraker to be £1,500 a year. He also received £1,000 a year tax-free separately from his job—The James Bond Dossier believes that this money is likely a family inheritance in the form of a trust—for a net salary of £2,000.
That was well-above the average salary at the time, which was about one quarter of Bond’s take-home pay. On top of that, Fleming notes that Bond is able to spend as much of the government’s money as he wants when on the job. He expenses his indulgences on his missions, from five-star hotels to the best champagne and caviar. That leaves him with quite a lot of money to spare.
Converting Bond’s 1955 yearly earnings to today’s money would be £53,661.25, which is still above the average £31,000 salary in the UK today. Whatever the closest type of SIS operative would be today, Bond probably is paid more seeing as he is the most elite of spies. We can guess he makes £100,000 a year with the combination of both his salary and trust.
How much does a suit cost?
Based on a GQ article from 1966, Bond could have purchased an Anthony Sinclair suit for $215, which converts to £77 at that time. Considering the cost of the suit would have been a bit lower in 1955, Bond could have afforded a wardrobe of bespoke suits and silk and Sea Island cotton shirts at the time without significant strain on his budget. He didn’t have many suits in the novels, and he wore his suits to the last threads.
On Bond’s estimated salary today, he would not be easily able to afford the Tom Ford wardrobe that he wears in Spectre, particularly at the rate he wears through his clothes in action scenes. The clothes he wears in the film would have cost about £40,000, and that’s assuming he didn’t have any duplicates.
It’s possible some of Bond’s other expenses, such as his housing, are covered by the government, and he could afford to spend that much money on his clothes in a year or two. According to Fleming, Bond spent all the money he could because he knew 00-agents have a short life expectency and saw no reason to save his money for an unlikely future. But what if Bond had to pay for his fancy Notting Hill flat? What if a former Bond girl sued him for child support? He probably needs more money to buy all of his clothes.
How can Bond afford these expensive clothes along with his other expenses?
His expensive clothes may possibly be billed to the government, though that is not a given since he probably does not purchase most of his clothes directly as part of his missions.
Bond’s luck and skill at gambling is what ultimately earns him big money. His first appearance on film is at the chemin de fer table at the Les Ambassadeurs Club, showing Bond in what we can only assume is a regular spot for him. This suggests that Bond makes most of his money here.
Based on the ratio of Bond’s gambling wins to losses throughout the series, it’s safe to assume overall that he wins much more frequently than he loses. After all, Bond’s luck shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not he has a cinematic audience.
Does Bond also have family money?
The film Bond may also have a larger family trust than the book Bond has. He is a descendant of Sir Thomas Bond, who was part of the landed gentry during the seventeenth century. He owned land that earned him money, so he did not have to work for his money. Bond’s father Andrew Bond was still the owner of a Bond ancestral home in Glencoe, Scotland, as seen in Skyfall. The house employs Kincaide, a caretaker. The estate once likely employed and housed many more people.
Like many wealthy families, much Bond’s family money may have all been spent before his time, and Andrew Bond held a sales position at Vickers that had him travelling Europe. Holding a job does not mean that Andrew didn’t have family money, but it may signify that the Bond fortune was not what it once was after being spent and divided over many generations. When Bond was born, his father entered him at Eton, so that could still signify that there was family money left. Perhaps there was a large life insurance policy left to Bond after his parents died.
In the Casino Royale film, Vesper Lynd suggests that Bond was not from money. It is important to note that Vesper is making guesses about Bond’s background to make him uncomfortable. There is no confirmation if what she says is true or false. Since she gets his watch wrong, it could mean that she got other things wrong too. The Skyfall estate proves that Bond did not come from a poor family, though since it’s no longer a thriving estate there may not be any family money left. The films have little continuity, even in the Craig era when they’re supposed to be a single story line, so Vesper may have been right that Bond grew up without money, but if she was correct, that story was retconned for Skyfall.
So while family money is not a given for Bond, his high-stakes gambling successes are. His true workplace is the casino. These successes mean that he doesn’t have to put all of his expenses on a credit card. So ultimately no matter what Bond’s salary is, it is likely ‘peanuts’ compared to his gambling payouts.