If you have been waiting for a public announcement or news headline to let you know that an economic collapse has begun, you are in for the surprise of your life. If history in other countries and in Detroit, Michigan is any indication, there won’t be an announcement.
An economic collapse tends to sneak up on a city, region, or country gradually over time. In some cases, the arrival of an economic collapse is so gradual that most people living in it aren’t even aware of it at first.
Things just get gradually worse, often so gradually that people and families adjust as best they can until one day they actually realize that it’s not just their home or their neighborhood that has been hit so hard financially, it’s everyone. By that time, it’s often too late to take preventative action.
In March of 2011, Detroit’s population was reported as having fallen to 713,777, the lowest it had been in a century and a full 25% drop from 2000. In December 2011, the state announced its intention to formally review Detroit’s finances.
In May of 2013, almost two years later, the city is deemed “clearly insolvent” and in July of 2013, the state representative filed a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition for Motor City. Detroit became one of the biggest cities to file bankruptcy in history.
So we have only to look at what happened in Detroit, Michigan post-bankruptcy, to get an indication of what might soon be widespread across the United States and what is already widespread in countries like Brazil and Venezuela.
Table of Contents
Increased and Widespread Hunger
Grocery stores and other businesses will fail one by one or be shut down from the riots and looting. In Detroit, the economic collapse left less than 5 national grocery stores for over 700,000 people.
Imagine the lines even if food was still being shipped in on trucks. Small independent corner stores and family owned stores become the most convenient place to shop. These are stores with already high prices who make most of their profit from beer, wine, lottery, and cigarettes.
Now imagine that shipping schedules have been affected by the economic crisis, this would mean longer lines with less certainty that any food would even be available once you got into the store to shop.
People in Venezuela are actually dealing with government-run grocery stores and are limited to two days per week they can shop. They still face long lines and total uncertainty of what, if any food, will be left once it’s their “turn” to shop.
One of the ways for you to prepare for the dollar collapse and increase the likelihood that your family will be well-fed regardless of what is available in the grocery stores is to grow your own food.
For further protection, consider planning and planting a survival garden rather than a traditional garden that would be obvious to neighbors and looters. In addition, you can learn how to identify wild edibles to supplement your food supply.
Another very important thing you can do is find, prepare and even move to a survival retreat that’s close to a town, but far enough from large cities. In the long run, this is th best way to prepare for most large-scale disasters.
If moving there is ont an option because of your job, lifestyle or for some other reason, you should still have one as a bug out location.
Sporadic Public Services
Public services, including the school system experience frequent strikes that shut them down for days at a time. Power issues and outages become more frequent and roadways become filled with potholes and other signs of disrepair as preventative measures are shoved aside.
The water from the tap, that you pay for monthly, begins to smell funny, so you start filtering it before using it. Garbage collection service is sporadic and you begin to see increased trash along the streets and sidewalks.
Your cell phone is certainly not something you can rely on since you can’t predict when the signal will be available. Although you pay for high-speed internet, actually getting that service on a daily basis is a matter of sheer luck.
Increased littering in the streets and lack of regular garbage collection services becomes an issue because the litter now clogs storm drains every time it rains.
In order to prepare for the sporadic and possible shutdown of public utility services, you can research alternative methods for getting what you need.
Consider solar or wind power energy, digging a well or installing a rainwater catchment system. Invest in a composting toilet in the event that public septic systems are overloaded or malfunctioning.
This is another one of those things that just tends to sneak up gradually. Initially, protests warrant our attention because it’s new and different and out of the ordinary.
But as the protests become more and more frequent, people stop caring why the protests are happening. You learn to avoid areas where protests are likely to occur. You start taking an alternate route to work or entering your office building through a back door.
Violence and vandalism begin to accompany the protests and roadblocks become part of your everyday routine. Like rush-hour traffic, you plan enough time to get to work based on the knowledge that the road may be blocked due to a car or building being set on fire the night before.
More people will be armed when in public, tempers will be short, there will be increased knife fights and shootings. This will put a huge strain on emergency services personnel such as police, fire, and EMS.
Streets, yards, and even homes are flooding more often now. In addition to the litter, the metal storm drains and even copper pipes from abandoned homes are being stolen for cash.
Before long you start to notice that the historic plaques are missing from city monuments, statues come up missing, even doorknobs, anything metal that can be scrapped is fair game for looters and thieves.
One way to prepare for social unrest is to move out of the city to a more rural location. If you can’t do that right now, then it will help to be intimately familiar with your city roads and other transportation routes.
Make sure that you have several planned routes to/from work or your child’s school and any nearby grocery stores. In addition to planning alternative routes for daily travel, you should plan and practice several different bug out routes in case you need to leave your home quickly.
Consider not only roads but also railroad tracks, subway tunnels, sewer tunnels, and power line easement roads as possible alternative routes.
Daily travel is fraught with angry mobs and requires using alternative routes which result in everything just taking longer. Travel by bus, subway, and airline are unpredictable due to increased strikes.
Roads go unrepaired as a result of striking workers or budget constraints. Increased bottlenecks on the roads lead to more frequent carjacking and muggings as thieves learn where people will be forced to stop.
More people are forced to travel by bus, subway, or train due to skyrocketing gas prices, thus public transportation services are overwhelmed.
There are increased train accidents, bus and subway breakdowns due to lack of investment, corruption, and politics getting in the way of doing things correctly.
Strikes, protests, and roadblocks make everything worse. Soon the only way to get anything done involves “paying a little extra” or suffering long and uncertain delays.
Plan for long delays in transportation by not only keeping your car gas tank full of gas at all times but also by stockpiling as much gas as you can safely store.
Keep your car well-maintained, keep spare parts and engine fluids stockpiled, and perform preventative repairs. You can also consider an alternate form of transportation such as a motorcycle, foldable bicycle, or even a motorized scooter or boat if your situation warrants it.
When an economic crisis is in the making, you will definitely see an increase in criminal activity. People will become desperate to feed themselves and their families.
More people will be more willing to cross the line into criminal activity to get what they need. Initially, you will hear about more incidents of violence, looting, robberies, and muggings.
Your neighbor or a family member will be mugged and you will respond by taking additional safety precautions. You’ll check your car before getting into it, you’ll avoid dark areas, carry your keys in your hand. As reports become more frequent, you’ll start to travel only in groups and never alone.
You’ll hear that the woman down the street had someone break into her house while she was sleeping. So you may nag your husband to reinforce the deadbolts and add security bars on the windows.
When the neighbor is robbed, your husband will buy several guns and you both will learn to use them. You’ll teach your kids about gun safety and maybe create a plan of action for a home invasion.
Before long, getting mugged or being a victim of some type of crime is as unpredictable and as common as a car accident. You’ll realize everyone in the neighborhood has now beefed up security on their homes.
All your family, friends, and coworkers have experienced a mugging, carjacking, or worse.
You’ll have no choice but to accept this new way of life and count on basic safety measures (a form of passive denial) or further learn to defend yourself and remain in a constant state of alert (a very stressful state over time).
It’s difficult emotionally, mentally, and physically to remain on high alert 24/7 for any length of time. Most people will revert to a form of passive denial until the next incident happens to them or a family member.
Take time now to learn self-defense moves and make sure you and all family members know how to use both non-lethal and lethal weapons. Keep weapons where you can reach them quickly but where they are safe from curious child fingers.
People Will Still Be in Debt
Just because the dollar has collapsed, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any banks and bankers asking to get it back. They only disaster that will prevent them from doing that is probably getting hit by an asteroid.
Seriously, though, you have to get out of debt, and to do it now, before SHTF, because the fate of debt after an economic collapse will not be pretty.
Streets that used to have a house on every lot, morph into desolate patches of houses as people lose their homes to banks or abandon their homes to move in with family or friends due to lack of finances. Houses fall into disrepair, lawns are overgrown, pests and rodents thrive in empty buildings.
Abandoned homes that aren’t torn down or maintained by the city may be taken over by squatters, some with the best of intentions to clean it up, others who just need a place to sleep, or who are in between drug or alcohol binges.
Squatters will modify heating systems to get them to work or customize DIY heating sources which can result in increased house fires and even explosions when things go wrong.
As the housing conditions worsen, more people will become ill from prolonged exposure to the elements, to poor living conditions, and to increased insect and rodent infestations.
The best way to ensure that housing for you and your family is stable is to keep up with needed repairs and do what you can to reduce your overall housing expenses.
If you can pay ahead on your house payments or pay down on the principal amount, or even pay off your house, you stand a better chance of keeping control of it when things start to collapse.
Unemployment Will Skyrocket
More and more people you know will experience job loss or layoffs. It may seem easy enough to get another job at first, but as more and more people are displaced, finding a job will become almost impossible. Teenagers will be displaced from jobs that are now being taken by adults.
This means instead of working for the summer and after school, more teenagers will be out on the streets without anything worthwhile to do.
The neighborhood might just seem “rowdier” at night and then during the day too. But before long, boredom, frustration, and even anger will set in and the unemployed will join the ranks of the protestors and looters.
Prepare for possible unemployment by saving up an emergency fund and stockpiling food and other supplies so that you can manage through several weeks or even months without steady income. Reduce your monthly expenses as much as possible so you can live on less when money gets tight.
Healthcare Will Be (Almost) Non-Existent
This is one of the areas that many people don’t really consider when they think about an economic collapse but it’s probably one of the most important when it comes to human life and survival.
This is especially true for those people who may take daily medications in order to treat a chronic life-threatening condition.
Initially healthcare appointments may become more difficult to schedule. It may take longer to get in to see a doctor because quite frankly, more people are getting sick and needing care.
Illnesses from poor diet, from low-quality water, or food that spoiled due to power issues will be more frequent. There will also be more injuries as a result of the looting, rioting, and increased criminal activity.
You can expect increased incidents of domestic violence as family relationships are strained and crack under the stress of poor living conditions.
Many people will lose access to their healthcare when they lose their jobs, and this will place a strain on public services such as free clinics and emergency rooms.
To prepare for a shortage or lack of accessible healthcare, you can create and learn to use your own first aid kit and learn how to identify and use wild plants and natural remedies to treat minor illnesses and diseases.
Impacts on Metropolitan Areas
An economic collapse does not necessarily show symptoms at the “consumer” level all at once, but the rumblings will be far more visible in cities than in most other places.
It seems strange, in a way; how can such a bustling, crowded place, so full of people toiling away at every endeavor, start to implode economically?
It is no exaggeration to say that cities are hubs, engines, of commerce. But they too can falter and fail when the economy tanks.
For those living in big cities, an economic collapse will be especially devastating. This is because city dwellers are more likely to work in sectors that are particularly vulnerable to an economic downturn.
These include the retail and consumer services industries, which are often the first to suffer when people start tightening their belts. As these sectors contract, jobs are lost and businesses close down.
This, in turn, leads to increased blight as abandoned storefronts and office buildings become eyesores in and around already struggling neighborhoods.
This creates a domino effect of further real estate woes. Prices continue to plummet while buying power continues to sink.
Pretty soon, property owners have no hope of unloading buildings and parcels which have suddenly become toxic assets.
The end result for people living in and around cities is what is sometimes called grayland; vast swabs of empty parking lots, dark storefronts and unused buildings.
In addition to this increased blight, urban areas will also see a rise in crime as desperate people turn to criminal activity in order to make ends meet an existing criminals, be they organized or unorganized, increase their operational tempo in the wake of decreased and less effective policing.
The combination of job loss, poverty, and desperation will create a perfect storm for crime waves of all sorts, from petty theft and vandalism to more serious offenses like robbery, rape, and murder.
When people are angry and scared they become less rational and maybe even delusional, and the results, especially with so many people packed into such a small space, are never pretty.
Another consequence of an economic collapse will be the rise of shanty villages on the outskirts of and laced throughout cities.
As more and more people find themselves homeless and without resources, they will band together (or at least live alongside each other) in informal settlements where they can try to make a go of it.
These settlements will invariably be rife with crime and disease, and life in them will be far from ideal. However, for many people, they will be the only option for habitation when everything else has failed.
With vacant sprawls and widespread despair, commerce will mostly grind to a halt. As businesses close down and people lose their homes, city centers will become deserted.
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of town and in other places they won’t be rousted, enterprising individuals will set up businesses catering to the needs of those who have been displaced by the collapse.
These opportunistic businesses will spring up in the wake of an economic collapse run by entrepreneurs and conmen alike.
Legitimate or illicit, all will be seeking to capitalize on what resources can be had since the social order has been turned on its head.
These businesses will usually be oriented to serving the people directly affected by the collapse, or those who are attempting to flee the cities for greener pastures that may or may not exist elsewhere.
Life in a big city after an economic collapse will be difficult, to say the least. However, it is important to remember that people are resilient and have a remarkable ability to adapt to even the most challenging circumstances.
With that said, it is still worth doing everything we can to prevent an economic collapse from happening in the first place. After all, it’s better to avoid disaster than to try to rebuild after it’s already struck.
Impacts on Rural Areas
The economic downturn will almost certainly take longer to show in rural locations than metropolitan areas.
Whether this is due to the fact that most small towns and villages are already economically disadvantaged or because of different customs and ways of life is uncertain.
The effects will, regardless, inevitably appear. Even people living in the core of America’s heartland will be impacted severely by its repercussions.
The first sign of trouble will be foreclosures and evictions. Families who have lived in their homes for generations will suddenly find themselves without a roof over their heads.
Time and time again during economic woes in developed countries, we see this hallmark. Debtors and banks will show no mercy, offer no forgiveness under the circumstances, no matter how extraordinary.
This is a tragedy unto itself, but considering it will be the local sheriffs that will be evicting people the seeds of tension and conflict will be sown in these small communities where everyone is said to know everyone else.
As people are reduced to rags and poverty, property values plummet further and intentions simmer until they reach a boiling point, this will cause an increase in insularity as residents become more distrustful of outsiders.
Many folks fleeing larger towns and cities might try their luck for work or resources in these small rural hamlets or villages. It is unlikely that they will have a warm welcome under the circumstances.
Residents of these rural areas that do not work for themselves might have to commute farther and farther to work if they’re local employer is forced to shutter, downsize or outsource.
They will likely do so in spite of reduced pay and increased costs of commuting, straining an already dire financial situation to the breaking point.
Those who farm or are in other ways self-employed might find their source of income greatly reduced or eliminated entirely as the industries that support them or purchase their goods or services shrink or collapse entirely.
As the economic situation further deteriorates, despair will start to set in. Many rural areas have already been economically depressed for decades, so this will only exacerbate the problem.
A surprise to some, rampant alcoholism, drug abuse and other self-destructive activities will be used in an effort to numb the pain and the heartache. This, as one would expect, will only further exacerbate problems and you can usually expect an increase in domestic violence and other troubles as a result.
Over time, many such small towns and villages will turn into legitimate ghost towns. The few people who remain will be struggling to get by on whatever they can scrounge up or have saved.
Towns may no longer remain Incorporated, and many of their former residences and businesses will stand empty, a mute testament to the severity of the economic plunge.
In short, life in rural areas after an economic collapse will be incredibly difficult. Families will have to band together just to survive. Those who don’t will likely perish. It’s a grim prospect, but it’s one that we must be prepared for.
Rural areas won’t be able to escape the effects, no matter how much they might want to. They’ll just have to weather the storm as best they can.
Are You Ready For One?
There’s really no way to predict the timing of an economic collapse with any certainty and in most cases, an economic collapse will occur gradually without much warning unless you are paying close attention to activity and events going on around you and around the world.
The best way to be prepared when it does happen is to start changing your lifestyle now, in the ways discussed above, so that you and your family can survive hard times in the future.
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of ten is learning everything she can about preparedness, survival, and homesteading.