- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I do not dismiss this possibility out of hand, but I do assign it a low probability. I feel a much more likely scenario would be stopping at one of the first four waypoints (If you wish me to wax specific I give the chances at 40%, 35%, 15%, 8% 2%).
As we proceed down this ladder, your preps are going to become increasingly valuable and difficult to defend. Be aware of this slope and keep a realistic assessment of where you are. I would think that your preps will be the most useful in stage 1 or stage 2, the risks to them are low and their value to you is high...life is good.
They will have higher value in stage 3, but this will come at an increased cost in potential danger. In stage 4, the danger and the value will be about equal. At this point here, you had better have a small cohesive group formed that is able to watch each others back.
If we in fact do proceed all the way to total stage 5 collapse, I would suggest that your preps target value may make them a net liability. At this point, a decision must be made to go the refugee route (always dangerous) or actually become one of the looters. In the case of stage 5 societal breakdown, the choices will be stark.
Above all, remember that you are in a continuous process of risk evaluation, the risk to you and your will rise and fall, keep your wits about you. Pay attention.