When the SHTF, no more income will be generated for a time.
Income is generated from various sources. These sources allow us to buy goods and services in order to purchase the things we need to survive and extra items that go above and beyond to add variability to our lives. This income almost always is in fiat money, a pleasant illusion we all accept in order to make things easier.
Of course not everyone can or will work. Children don't generally work. They rely upon older adults to care for them. Retirees rely upon government retirement and pensions. Students wait on income generation while attending college full time, especially ones in graduate school. They sublimate their desire to work in order to achieve greater income some time in the future. Handicapped members of our society, whether physically or mentally challenged, rely upon government assistance. Unemployed members rely upon government benefits that they paid for.
The remainder of our society receive income from a variety of sources.
A very large portion receive income from government sources. They may be soldiers, government workers, politicians, or work in institutions that receive government support, and hence those places are able to provide income.
Many used to work in industry. These numbers have been dwindling as industrial jobs have transferred to other countries. Some work in the service occupations. Some work in prisons: either the custodians of the prison, or the inmates who work in a variety of industries or services at wages you would not believe. A very few work on farms, the vast majority on corporately owned ones. Some own small businesses. Many of these rely upon government contracts to stay in business.
Some work in spiritual enterprises, and their followers cede over income to pay their salaries. Some work in similar organizations that provide a centering focus, and income is similarly allocated to pay for their salaries.
Some generate income off the books. They perform illegal activities which generate income, for essential goods and services, due to demand from the rest of society. They only can generate income because people are willing to use their goods or services.
Almost all of these will be gone in a SHTF scenario.
In the absence of a central government in control, the most likely scenario is an exodus of refugees without income and supplies to progressively less urban centers in search of goods and services. They'll leave because of a lack of security.
In an absence of control, leadership will change and mutate. Now we seek leadership based upon popularity, eloquence, money, and advertising. Sometimes our leadership have unique ideas or they are brilliant, but generally leadership exists based upon a calculated political path of negotiation, education, and communication. Speaking in generalities, people cede their power by willing it over to other individuals or organizations in return for goods and services or for the perception of a transfer of goods and services.
Some people believe in an idea sometimes, and they will cede their power due to their passions, but these make up a very small subset of society. Even those people will generally lose their passion as they age, so that this number decreases in time to a very miniscule portion of society. These people are sometimes called altruists.
Leadership in a SHTF scenario will be the individuals and organizations who are the strongest. The most likely organizations are criminal ones and the military. Both require numbers of strong individuals to generate their strength, and we can expect some will willingly follow either in order to achieve goods and services.
The average individual is not strong enough based upon their natural abilities to protect themselves and project power. In order to do so, they acquire items which will enhance their natural abilities. Those who have both will be formidable. They will overcome any reticence from those not willing to cede their power, and they will take power by force of arms, or the perception of a loss of life or property.
Items which enhance power will be the most valuable goods in a SHTF scenario.
When one doesn't possess power, they feel or are weak. Those who are without income: goods and services, will feel powerless. Powerless people will cede power easily for a diminishing amount of goods and services.
Since goods and services are not being generated, their value will increase. Prices rise as demand stays constant, but availability decreases. Since there will be a severe curtailment of organized income generation, the amount of goods and services will drop precipitously.
Items which formerly had to be transported long distances will be entirely unavailable since it will be impossible to create them locally. These items often require the transportation of other specialized components in order to assemble the completed product. They will be the rarest items.
People who can repair local goods by cannibalizing or altering available parts will be able to generate income.
Everyone will cope in the best way that they can.
Those who are strong, have things which will increase their power, feel more secure, are altruistic, have skills which will generate income in a post-SHTF world, will do better than those who don't have these attributes.
Those without these attributes will be the majority of refugees.
Most people have not ever been hungry, not truly. I dare say that most people have not missed more than three meals, let alone not eaten for a week at a time. When one is hungry, the immediate feeling is only annoying. When it lasts a few days, it can either diminish or become accentuated. Weakness follows, then altered thinking patterns, then panic.
In the absence of supplies, for most the immediate response is to gorge on supplies. Denial creates desire. When reality sets in, rationing occurs. Hunger must be staved off. Hunger will increase as progressively less food is available and rationed. The normal progression changes as an attempt is made to slow down the progression, and altered thinking become constant. Panicking people will do wild and unpredictable things. Refugees will fit into many of these progressive categories. The gorging and wild category...the most volatile and dangerous.