@HSpencer: People usually are sheeple, look no further than finance for ample evidence. The word "conspiracy" has become a mere buzz word designed to control and shut down arguments... With an effective TV PR campaign seems people can be convinced of any ridiculous falsehood. THAT is much closer to the definition of conspiracy than how it is so often misused today.
@Budro: put off retirement and save up WHAT; currency, equities, gold, tools, land... all of the above? If things really go bad most traditional investments would likely be worthless... If you were wrong, that's life years you'll never get back.
I live in a sparsely populated area. A cheap, easy and quick way to put myself ahead of 90% of my neighbors was to build a quality reference library on local forage. I'd bet 95% of these food sources are unknown to 98% of the population. Some small protection... But I have no illusion about how incredible difficult it would to thrive on a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. The traditional peoples were incredibly tough and clever.
Skill, intelligence, luck, preparation, wealth... Probably the most important things is your ability to use your brain and the will to live.
It depends on the level of the collapse. Here's an interesting breakdown from here:
Stages of Collapse
Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in "business as usual" is lost. The future is no longer assumed resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.
Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that "the market shall provide" is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.
Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that "the government will take care of you" is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.
Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that "your people will take care of you" is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.
Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for "kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity" (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes "May you die today so that I die tomorrow" (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.