"We risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance"
- Rubén Blades

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it"
- Art Buchwald

"It's getting exciting now, two and one-half. Think of everything we've accomplished, man. Out these windows, we will view the collapse of financial history. One step closer to economic equilibrium"
- Tyler Durden

"It is your corrupt we claim. It is your evil that will be sought by us. With every breath, we shall hunt them down."
- Boondock Saints

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Calculating The Present Value of Discounted Cash Flows to My Vagina

The following piece is a great write up on the current debate about women, healthcare, and who should pay for what.  It is a continuing trend today that media and opinionated talking heads ramble off the costs for this and that in a way to make viewers sympathize and thus desire to subsidize a women's vagina.  Apparently as society moves forward (or backwards, which is debatable but I digress) the cost of regular vaginal maintenance increases and this is what makes women more special today than men.  See in finance, we don't run on emotion, at least the ones who are successful enough to make it on their own.  So when someone like Tracie Morrissey puts together an annual cost of a women's ovaries, usually the mathematically inclined and quick witted will call them out, as finemrespice.com did.  We live in a world where everyone tries to go to their doctor and everyone expects someone to pay their bills.  Its really quiet simple: if you're a women and you need various female products, make sure you prepare yourself well enough in life that you can afford them.  If the costs are too high for your female products, consider where else you can save money.  Do you NEED to go to the bar?  Do you NEED your hair dyed every month?  Do you NEED a new dress for every occasion?  Do you NEED a Coach purse?  It's a world where not many people actually think, they just do.  Enjoy this piece from one of the few that do think.

Apparently it has somehow become popular in the United States over the last several days to itemize up the costs of feminine hygiene products, contraception (including hormone therapy used to deal with "irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, vaginal bleeding, ruptured cysts, or hemorrhagic cyst [sic]"),1 depilatory, and grooming products and use these figures to make the case that somehow women are a special healthcare case (that is, at least more special than men), and therefore prophylactic (if you will forgive the term) health care entitlements, in the form of expansive "insurance" of course, are critical to social justice. To wit, Jezebel's editor Tracie Egan Morrissey's latest missive: "This is How Much it Costs to Own a Vagina: An Itemized List."

Obviously, any knave so callous as to attempt to argue this point must be part of the vast right-wing conspiracy to steal the ladyparts of unwitting citizens.

Americans, your country is doomed.

Even if Jezebel's editor were not terminally mathematically challenged (and this is putting the case very mildly) the basic premises that underlie the thrust (so to speak) of her utero-call-to-arms are patently absurd.

After listing out a litany of drugstore and prescription items ranging from cranberry juice to toilet paper our heroine tacks the annual expense for a pair of ovaries at between $2,663.02 and $4,228.02.

Taking this decidedly amateurish analysis at face value, by implication this puts the present value of my vagina's ten-year discounted cash flow at between -$17,949.96 and -$28,498.77, or about on par with a Chevy Volt.

With the 10 year treasury yielding 2.05%2 and an implied equity risk premium hovering around 5.85%3 I use a 7.90% discount rate for my vagina here. This is befitting my highly conservative valuation approach as one could easily make the case that cost of capital for a vagina far from the end of its useful life is extremely low given the exceedingly strong borrowing power one commands on the highly liquid (as it were) global vagina market.

Certainly, the beta for long maturity AAA, AA, or A rated vagina vis-a-via the S&P 500 would be under 1.00, but I use 1.00 here. One can verify the conservative nature of these figures simply by observing the fact that top quartile and 1SD vaginas are effectively "same as cash" in most global (meat) markets with friday and saturday trading days.

In addition, there are active vagina futures and options markets with high open interest (forgive the jargon), particularly around the contracts with January 1st and February 14th expiration dates and those that fall near investment bank bonus seasons. (Unfortunately, a discussion of the vagina swap market and vaginal rehypothecation is beyond the scope of this piece).

Assuming a 30 year useful life for the average vagina (perhaps between the ages of 15 - 45)4 this value band shifts to a discounted cash flow value over the useful life period (to coin a phrase) of between -$30,264.79 and -$48,050.76. Of course, there is some salvage value (say 10%) after this period, but also highly increased equipment maintenance costs. As with oil wells, which are simply plugged and abandoned after their useful life, I ignore this value for the purposes of this analysis. In addition, though vaginal rejuvenation can occasionally (and expensively) add a few years to useful life. I assume here that the present value of such vaginal rejuvenation efforts is negative with respect to pure cash flows of the type Ms. Morrissey describes and therefore do not account for it here.

With these numbers it is a no-brainer for me to just run out and get a hysterectomy and tubal ligation given that both procedures could be easily had for less than the negative present value of the ongoing costs of "vaginal maintenance" according to Ms. Morrissey.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), and as I alluded to earlier, this analysis is deeply flawed and dishonest on its face. Moreover, the implied solutions are highly problematic and prone to create serious market failures and distortion in vagina demand (and supply). Finally, the line of argument Ms. Morrissey takes belies a highly unusual philosophy for an activist investor in vagina issues concerned with ongoing shareholder value.

The point of Ms. Morrissey's analysis appears to be that, in her view, a vagina throws off negative cash flow during its early useful life, and is therefore possessed of a negative present value at all times, even during its early and most maintenance-free years. This state of affairs, combined with the fact that vagina owners are stuck with their vaginas unless they resort to expensive surgery of questionable value, and the supposed fact that men do not have to endure these negative vaginal cash flows, prompts Ms. Morrissey to argue that vagina owners should be "grossed up" to compensate them for their negative cash flowing (if you will) assets.

Ignoring for a moment the very serious trade imbalance between vagina holders and serial acquirers of vagina assets (these cash flows are almost universally from male to female in direction, of course) obviously, any critique of a discounted cash flow must first start with the actual cash flow assumptions. I undertake that thankless task now.
To begin with is Ms. Morrissey's disclaimer:
Note: Annual quantities of drugstore-type purchases and personal grooming treatments are estimates based on Jezebel staffers' personal experiences.5
We simply must take this to mean that every cash flow data point Ms. Morrissey provides is simply anecdote (read: bullshit). It is, after all, provided without citation to any reputable data aggregator or source (e.g. Bloomberg, Factset, ThomsonOne, etc.) and fails to be adjusted for national variances in costs– one assumes rather effortlessly that as the editor of Jezebel Ms. Morrissey enjoys the benefits (and increased costs) of a metropolitan area. Far be it for finem respice to remind its readers that the plural of "anecdote" is not "data," but, nevertheless, this disclaimer bears mentioning.
Continuing we find:
Were you aware of the fact that in your 20s alone, you will spend over $26,000 on vaginal maintenance?
While it doesn't bear directly on her analysis yet, Ms. Morrissey takes advantage of her continual conflating of the asset class "vagina" with other asset classes. In fact, most negative cash flow line items she provides are not actually directly attributed to the vagina asset, but rather a portfolio of assets including ovaries, uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes and the like. But I digress.
The line items begin with:
Birth Control
Studies show that oral contraceptives have been used by about 80 percent of women in the U.S. at some point in their lives. And it's a huge expense–particularly so without health insurance. While Planned Parenthood does offer generic forms of certain pills at a discount, many women are prescribed specific pills for specific reasons and thus, cut-rate pills are not an option.

For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will need a different level of hormones than other women and thus, her presciption needs to be carefully managed under a doctor's care.
Ms. Morrissey presumably cites PCOS because it is among the most prevalent of hormonal disorders (and disproportionately impacts hispanic and african american women). Even so, even the most aggressive figures asset that only about 5-8% of women are affected by the disorder. If it's not common, one supposes it better impact a protected class.

In addition, "80 percent of women in the U.S. at some point in their lives" does not justify inclusion of oral contraceptives as a regular expense. It is entirely conceivable (in fact, likely) that of these 80% of women 25% or more used oral contraceptives for a year or two, grew tired of the side effects and discontinued their use entirely. Applying these costs without any discount as if universal to women ages 20-45 is dishonest. It won't be the first manipulation in the article.
The same goes with women suffering from irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, vaginal bleeding, ruptured cysts, or hemorrhagic cyst. That being said, birth control can cost a woman up to $129.99 per pill pack.
The specifics of this language are important: "That being said, birth control can cost a woman up to $129.99 per pill pack." Note that the special case, or even a parade of horrible special cases are now presented as the mean cost across all women and this figure is carried into the cash flow assumptions and used to justify:
$129.99 a pack at 13 packs per year: $1689.87
This is Bank of America league analysis and should be laughed right off the street and back to Charlotte. She continues:
Because they are taken daily like vitamins and not simply whenever a woman has sex like Viagra, a woman goes through a pill pack every 28 days. So this is actually what Sandra Fluke meant when she testified that it would set back law students $3000 over the course of law school if insurance didn't help defray the cost of birth control.
Note again the incredibly sloppy analysis. A condition that impacts less than 1/10th of the population is conflated to all "law students." The horror.

It is also important to note that pure "birth control" has been conflated with prescription hormonal treatments that, while they may be dual-use in nature, are primarily about treating a specific and rare condition among women. Introducing confusion in this way intentionally serves to transform exceptional costs for a small minority of vagina asset holders (hormone treatment for endocrine disorders) with "birth control," which Ms. Morrissey took pains to point out is used by 80% of women (*ahem* "at one time in their lives").

The implication is that this negative cash flow item is ubiquitous among holders of vagina assets when, in fact, it is actually rare. In addition, from an accounting perspective, the cash flow item is made to seem far more politically sensitive (republicans arriving to take away birth control) than circumstances warrant.

Even if we were to ignore her blatant mean conflation, this annual figure should at least be discounted by the 20% that even Ms. Morrissey admits do not take oral contraceptives- or rather, have never tried oral contraceptives. In fact, this discount figure should be much, much higher.

Amateur hour continues:
Tampons & Maxipads
…about 70 percent of American women use tampons. And on average, a woman will, in her lifetime use more than 11,000 tampons or pads.
Two issues present themselves here:

1. Ms. Morrissey fails to note the percentage of women who use either tampons and pads. I'm willing to bet this is near 95% but it remains impossible to discount these figures and come to reasonable yearly cash flow figures without this data. This is simple laziness or manipulation on Ms. Morrissey's part.

2. This, unlike most of her analysis thus far, is a nearly universal, recurring, regular cost. However, this has implications for the appropriateness of using it as an example to argue for insurance coverage. More on this later.

It continues:
PMS Relief
A woman's period does not just involve blood, but also bloating, cramping, headaches, constipation, fatigue and irritability. Research shows that about 85% of women (aged 25 - 35) deal with the physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Midol, the over-the-counter medication used to deal with the effects of PMS, is a common remedy.
$6.99 a bottle at 3 bottles per year: $20.97
This statement isn't even internally consistant with itself. "A woman's period does not just involve blood, but also... [parade of horribles]" cannot be reconciled with the 85% figure quoted in the very next sentence. The first sentence should read: "Most women's periods do not...." This is not helpful to Ms. Morrissey's argument, however. Shame.

Conflation of the mean has already become a habit with Ms. Morrissey, it seems. It is not relevant to this cash flow item what percentage of women "deal with the physical symptoms," but rather what percentage of them buy Midol or other medication and what that medication costs. Since anecdote appears to be an acceptable source for data here I am happy to include my own: I never buy the PMS relief products that Ms. Morrissey describes.

And, again, by her own admission 15% of the population experiences no physical symptoms. Surely that figure, at the very least, should be trimmed from her analysis?

What next?
Pelvic Exam & Pap Smear
Pelvic exams are vital to a woman's gynecological health. A healthcare provider examines the entire pelvic area–internally and externally–to determine if there are any infections or other conditions that need to be addressed or treated. An annual pap smear will help to detect cervical cancer.
Planned Parenthood–for the time being, anyway–provides this service to uninsured women for a discounted rate. Otherwise, a woman could pay upwards of $500 for an exam and lab results.
$175 at Planned Parenthood
Here we begin to slip into an area where, if it is possible, Ms. Morrissey is on even thinner ice. Of course, the correct analysis is not what an ob/gyn exam costs a woman, but what incremental cost over annual physical costs incurred by men is involved. Ms. Morrissey treats the ob/gyn exam as if no blood work, vital signs, or general physical examination accompanies it. This is preposterous, of course. It also appears to suggest that testicular, hernia, genital and prostate exams for men are somehow less exceptional (or costly) than breast and pelvic exams for women.

Throughout the article there is a not so subtle attempt to shock male readers into quiet, babbling submission with daunting gynecological mystiques that will deter them from entering the debate. Who wants to fight with a women about PMS? There's no upside. Don't think we haven't figured that one out, guys.

Moreover, again we have slipped into the realm of recurring, regular, predictable costs. Certainly, there are fewer regular and more predictable costs than an "annual physical." Again, we will explore the relevance to insurance on this point supra.
Birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so condoms play an important role in a woman's sexual health. And while a man should certainly pitch in with this expense, it's best to never rely on someone with a boner to be looking out for your best interest.
This is a pretty thin excuse for attempting to make this cost somehow the exclusive provenance of women. At the very least Ms. Morrissey should attempt to tease out (so to speak) the percentage of sexual encounters where a woman has to provide the condoms because her partner possessed none. One doubts seriously if this figure is actually a lot higher than 50% of condom purchases. But that analysis is a bit too much work for Ms. Morrissey, one supposes.
Feminine itching is very real, and unlike with men–who think nothing of readjusting their balls mid conversation–it's generally unheard of for women to dig at their crotches. Anti-itch creams are really the only socially acceptable way for women to handle the problem without scratching.
$6.29 per tube
Again, conflation of the mean. What percentage of women actually use the product? How frequently? Once a year? Once every couple of years? What is the net negative cash flow when set off against America-wide purchase of jock-itch remedies? Ms. Morrisey has no idea. Neither do we.

But we do now know that men are heathen pigs. You dogs. I bet you are scratching yourself right this second!

Urinary Tract Infection Remedies
UTIs are more common in women than men, partially because a woman's urethra is shorter than a man's, and as a result the bacteria has a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
Here, at the very least, Ms. Morrissey has a case for a fairly unique malady. But she again has trouble articulating the mean here. How often does the average woman experience a UTI? What is the real cost of curing one? Surely, cranberry juice doesn't work for everyone– in fact, as you would expect, Ocean Spray spent a small fortune trying to prove otherwise but never got results much more dramatic than the water control group. Neither, as far as that goes, do $40 in "general antibiotics." Ms. Morrissey's grasp on medicine leaves much to be desired.

Personally, I've had only two in my lifetime. The 10 year cost figure on my count is overstated in Ms. Morrissey's model by 10x or more.

And Ms. Morrssey goes on, to cover toilet paper (again conflating the mean by not measuring the incremental consumption over men) and depilatory services– as if this purely cosmetic endeavor had no parallel in the billions and billions men spend on shaving and hair-loss products, mostly to please women, in seeking to perfect the closest daily shave and most youthful "do." Even so, how are depilatory costs deserving of health care insurance coverage (can we get an insurance coverage panel to mandate brazilians?)

She then throws in abortion costs using a sort of "reserve for bad debts and contingent liabilities" accounting treatment. This puzzles me as I always include a "halfsies on abortions" clause in my pre-coital contract language.
But it is in the UTI section that Ms. Morrissey tips her hand:
The treatment for UTIs, if done correctly, can be costly, between antibiotics–particularly if one is uninsured–and all-natural cranberry juice....
And here is the fatal crux that underlies the whole of her poorly articulated, badly reasoned argument. It is no less costly, Ms. Morrissey, to treat a UTI when you are insured. It is simply that someone else is picking up the cost.

Of course, intuitively she recognizes this even if she cannot articulate it. And this is why she has cast her entire argument in marxist terms. That somehow women are a more vulnerable, sickly class of citizen. A class afflicted with unique and pitiful maladies, leprous mutations that weaken them to such an extent that they must be grossed up financially to compensate for the rank unfairness that is being born with a vagina.

Despite the generally humorous tenor in this piece, I have to say that in this context Ms. Morrissey absolutely nauseates me.
To measure, as Ms. Morrisey wantonly does, the vagina in terms of the purported negative cashflow that accrues to its owner is simply the worst kind of penis envy. It shocks me that Ms. Morrisey does not recognize the degree to which she harms to cause of gender equality in this way.

To set the standard that possession of a vagina is a net negative that must be financially compensated with taxpayer funded gender reparations is the most regressive and base approach to the problem one can imagine.

It is as if she believes the afflictions of, for example, sexual disfunction, testicular cancer and prostate cancer are meaningless. Personally, I would trade a lifetime of regular UTIs for gastroesophageal reflux disease, popliteal artery aneurysms, septic arthritis, kidney cancer, bladder cancer and, yes, AIDS (all predominantly male diseases).

I am also more than happy to enjoy every year of the near decade in additional lifespan I get by virtual of having a vagina. What's a decade of life worth? Ms. Morrissey might spend some time netting out her absurdly calculated, four-figure annual costs against merging with the infinite two presidential elections later than her male counterparts.

But one supposes that in the marxist schema that is a disadvantage. Ten years more of health costs to plague a socialized medicine system. Once again, women cost more- and if this doesn't highlight for you, dear reader, the absolute evil that underlies this manner of thinking, then nothing will.

But there is a larger pathology in this entire argument. One that has its roots many years ago as leftists conflated "access to health care" with "insurance" and "free health care." One sees it easily in Ms. Morrissey's 6th grade level economic understanding, plagued as it is by the misnomer that being insured somehow makes the health care you consume cheaper. Insurance, and in this case government subsidy, is not, actually, manna from heaven. Government subsidy, to be handed out, must first be taken by force. And in this case, taken predominantly from men (or what's the point?)

What Ms. Morrissey proposes is, by and large, not about "insurance." Insurance is a means to pool risk to avoid variance spikes for unforseen costs and events. Being compensated for an annual exam (nothing could be more predictable) or monthly oral contraception is not "insurance." That's pure welfare. But this distinction has been lost on those like Ms. Morrissey.

This, combined with her shameful negative valuation of the vagina, ovaries, uterus and ova, makes her the worst kind of enemy to women. The dangerously uneducated but highly self-rightous kind. Look out.

It is almost impossible to me to understand the mentality that prevents her from netting out the amazing upside there is to owning one of these beautiful pieces of anatomy. I find it nearly impossible to imagine the net benefits that accrue to me from mine are somehow negative. But then, perhaps my vaginal upside is just much higher than Ms. Morrissey's
  1. 1. Morrissey, Tracie Egan, "This is How Much it Costs to Own a Vagina: An Itemized List," Jezebel (April 6, 2012).
  2. 2. Bloomberg, April 6, 2012.
  3. 3. Implied equity risk calculation via finem respice April 7, 2012.
  4. 4. Source: Friend of finem respice 1-2.
  5. 5. Morrissey, Tracie Egan, "This is How Much it Costs to Own a Vagina: An Itemized List," Jezebel (April 6, 2012).